Localized Rash with Unknown Cause

Symptom Definition

  • Rash on one part of the body (localized or clustered)
  • Red or pink rash (erythema)
  • Small spots, large spots or solid red
  • Main Cause: skin contact with some irritant
  • If you can identify the rash then click on one of the more specific topics below If you cannot identify it then use this guideline.

See More Appropriate Topic for a Non-Itchy Rash

See More Appropriate Topic for an Itchy Rash

Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If

  • Your child looks or acts very sick
  • Purple or blood-colored spots or dots that’s not from injury or friction
  • Bright red area or red streak (but not sunburn)
  • Rash area is very painful
  • Newborn (< 1 month old) with tiny water blisters (like chickenpox)

Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 and 4) If

  • You think your child needs to be seen
  • Severe itching or fever is present
  • Teenager with genital area rash

Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If

  • You have other questions or concerns
  • Looks like a boil or infected sore or other infected rash
  • Peeling fingers
  • Rash lasts > 7 days

Parent Care at Home If

  • Mild localized rash and you don’t think your child needs to be seen

Home Care Advice for Localized Rashes

  1. Avoid the Cause: Try to find the cause. Consider irritants like a plant (e.g. poison ivy), chemicals (e.g. solvents or insecticides), Fiberglass, detergents, a new cosmetic, or new jewelry). A pet may be the intermediary (e.g. with poison ivy or oak) or your child may react directly to pet saliva.
  2. Avoid Soap: Wash the area once thoroughly with soap to remove any remaining irritants. After this first washing avoid soaps to this area to prevent irritation. Cleanse the area when needed with warm water.
  3. Local Cold: Apply or soak in cold water for 20 minutes every 3 to 4 hours to reduce itching or pain.
  4. Steroid Cream: If the itch is more than mild, apply 1% hydrocortisone cream (no prescription needed) every 2 hours until it feels better, then 4 times per day. (Exception: suspected ringworm)
  5. Avoid Scratching: Encourage the child not to scratch. Cut the fingernails short.
  6. Contagiousness: Children with localized rashes do not need to miss any day care or school.
  7. Expected Course: Most of these rashes pass in 2 to 3 days.
  8. Call Your Doctor If
    • Rash spreads or becomes worse
    • Rash lasts > 1 week
    • Your child becomes worse or develops any of the “Call Your Doctor Now” symptoms