What you can do to treat eczema, chickenpox and impetigo in children.
Medically reviewed by Dr Juliet McGrattan (MBChB) and words by Becky Fletcher
Skin conditions can manifest in a number of ways, including dryness, itching, scaling, bumps, blisters, and sores. Rashes are particularly common in children, but most are harmless and will disappear without needing any specific treatment.
But when does a rash require input from your family doctor or just a quick trip to the pharmacy? We speak to Dr Anjali Mahto, Consultant Dermatologist, and Netdoctor’s resident pharmacist Rita Ghelani, to find out:
Impetigo in children
Look out for open sores or blisters that can be suggestive of contagious skin diseases, such as impetigo, explains Dr Mahto. ‘Impetigo is a common, highly contagious skin condition seen in children,’ she says.
‘It can cause sores and blisters and usually improves in about seven days with treatment. There are two types of impetigo – bullous and nonbullous. Bullous impetigo usually affects the trunk and non-bullous impetigo affects the skin around the nose and mouth.’
✔️ How to treat impetigo in children
‘Impetigo usually gets better without treatment within two to three weeks,’ says Ghelani. ‘Because impetigo can be easily spread to other people and other parts of the body, it is a good idea to keep to the area clean and covered with a gauze dressing. Your GP may prescribe an antibiotic cream or a course of oral antibiotics.’
There are some recent studies showing that antiseptic cream may be as effective as an antibiotic one for mild cases of impetigo so speak to your pharmacist.
Chickenpox in children
Common childhood skin infections such as chickenpox don’t usually require medical intervention and the illness needs to run its course, and some skin problems just require a trip to your local pharmacy.
✔️ How to treat chickenpox in children
‘To help ease the itching of chickenpox I would recommend an oral antihistamine, such as chlorophenamine (Piriton) and using aqueous calamine cream on the spots,’ says Ghelani. ‘Aqueous calamine cream is easier to use than calamine lotion as it has a thicker consistence, so can be applied more easily.’
Eczema in children
Eczema is a chronic condition that affects about 1 in 5 children. It causes skin to become itchy, red, dry and cracked. This usually affects skin behind the knees, within the elbow creases, neck, eyes and ears.
✔️ How to treat eczema in children
‘Mild, chronic skin conditions may be managed at home, eg mild eczema and dry skin,’ advises Dr Mahto. ‘These skin complaints may simply require emollient therapies and soap substitutes. Fragranced products and soaps should ideally be avoided as they may aggravate dryness.’
‘With eczema the key message is to keep the skin moisturised,’ Ghelani adds. ‘I would recommend using a good emollient such as E45 cream or Diprobase cream at least two or three times a day. I would also recommend switching to a soap substitute such as Oilatum shower gel or bath formula.’
When to see a doctor about your child’s rash
Skin disease that leads to disruption of daily activities should be addressed early, explains Dr Mahto. ‘Frequent itching, difficulty sleeping, tiredness and lack of interest in play and food may be important signs to assess severity.’
If your child’s skin condition is failing to settle after a few days, you are uncertain of the cause of the skin rash, or the condition is causing disruption of daily activities, it is time to see your GP for advice.
Skin disease that leads to disruption of daily activities should be addressed early.
If skin disease is severe or not improving despite maximal treatment with your GP then you are likely to need referral to a dermatologist.
‘Skin disease can have a huge emotional impact on the sufferer and their family/carers. It is important to assess whether the skin condition is affecting daily activities such as sleep, play, and feeding,’ Dr Mahto adds.
‘If these activities are being disrupted it is vital to let the treating doctor know. In some severe circumstances, it may be appropriate to seek help from a clinical psychologist or behavioural therapist.’