Where to seek help
Skin rashes are common in babies and children. Most rashes are harmless and go away on their own.
The causes of skin rashes tend to differ in babies compared to older children. Many viruses can cause a rash in addition to other symptoms such as fever and cough. The rash often varies in shape and size, usually appearing as blotchy red spots commonly affecting most of the body. They sometimes appear quite quickly and usually last for only a few days. These rashes are generally ‘non-specific’, which means it is often hard to say which specific virus is the cause.
Check this excellent visual guide to common causes of skin rashes in babies and children.
Best Beginnings also has this video on common skin rashes:
Check if your child has any red symptoms:
- Your child develops swollen lips, a swollen tongue and is struggling to breathe.
- Develops a rash that does not disappear with pressure (the ‘Glass Test’).
- Is confused or very lethargic (difficult to wake).
- Becomes pale, mottled and feels abnormally cold to touch.
- Is going blue around the lips.
- Too breathless to talk, eat or drink.
- Becomes extremely agitated (crying inconsolably despite distraction).
- Your baby is under three months old with a rash and fever.
- In children with darker skin, check for colour changes in the lips, tongue, palms of hands and / or soles of feet.
Actions to take if your child has any red symptoms
- Your child may require emergency treatment.
- You should call 999 or take them to your NEAREST Emergency Department where they can be assessed.
If there are no red symptoms, check if your child has any amber symptoms:
- Your child develops a painful or blistering rash.
- Develops a rash affecting more than 90 per cent of their body.
- Has had chickenpox in the past few days and is now getting more unwell with a high fever and spreading red rash.
- Develops red lips or a red tongue.
- Develops significant skin peeling.
- Your baby is three to six months old with a temperature of 39°C / 102.2°F or above (please note fever is common in babies up to two days after they receive vaccinations) – how to take your child’s temperature.
- Continues to have a fever of 38.0°C or above for more than five days.
Options if your child has any amber symptoms
Your child does not need to be taken to the Emergency Department immediately, but you should seek medical advice today.
- ring your GP surgery during their usual opening hours
- contact the out of hours GP if the surgery is closed
If symptoms continue for four hours or more and you have not been able to speak to your GP or the out of hours GP, consider going to your nearest Emergency Department.
If your child develops any of the red symptoms above, go to your nearest Emergency Department.
- If no red or amber features are present, most children with fever and rash can be safely managed at home.
- If you think the rash is a worsening of your child’s eczema, optimise your child’s eczema treatment or contact your GP surgery or practice nurse.
If no red or amber symptoms are present:
- your child does not seem to have any symptoms of serious illness or injury
- you can get general advice on the NI Direct website or from your local pharmacy
If your child develops any of the red or amber symptoms above, follow the advice in these sections.
Where to seek help
- If it is non-urgent, speak to your local pharmacist or health visitor.
- Alternatively, you can contact your GP practice and a qualified member of the clinical team will check whether your child needs to be seen urgently. Out of hours GP details are available here.
- You should only call 999 or go your nearest Emergency Department in critical or life-threatening situations.
- See our section: How does the Children’s Emergency Department Work?
Community pharmacists in Northern Ireland
How to take your baby’s temperature