Expert advice on common kids’ skin conditions
Heading to the pool to cool off, sharing locker rooms before and after sports, and playing with other children can all increase the chance of passing on a skin disease. The good news is that they are usually harmless, however they can be uncomfortable and unpleasant, and can affect all the family. Yale Medicine experts have shared their advice on prevention and treatment for three of the most common skin conditions.
Warts are small, abnormal flesh-colored growths on the surface of the skin which are harmless, but can be unpleasant. “They can also be painful when they appear on the soles of the feet or stick out of the elbow or the ankle,” explains Yale Medicine’s Richard Antaya, MD.
“We don’t know precisely how you get warts,” says Dr. Antaya. “[B]ut we do know that one way of getting a wart is through a break in the skin.” Because of this he advises covering cuts and avoid going barefoot in locker rooms and pools.
A wart will often clear up on its own without any treatment, and if you do opt for treatment they can still be difficult to get rid of, says Dr. Antaya. “We have different treatments for warts because no single treatment works for everyone; each person’s immune system works differently, and every wart is different.”
Often a combination of typical treatment methods may be needed to remove warts including over-the-counter salicylic acid products, cryotherapy (when a dermatologist freezes off the wart with liquid nitrogen) or squaric acid, which involves treating the wart with topical acid at the dermatologist.
Ringworm sounds worse than it is, and it is not caused by any kind of worm. The name refers to infection’s red circular rash with skin flaking at the edges. It can appear anywhere on the body and when it appears on the feet people may more commonly know it as athlete’s foot.
“Cats and dogs don’t necessarily have a rash, but could still be carrying it,” explains Amanda Zubek, MD, Ph.D., medical director of Yale Medicine Dermatology, so have your pets checked out. Also keep feet covered and don’t share combs, brushes or hats to avoid spreading infection on these parts of the body. Because it’s contagious, avoid touching an active ringworm infection if a family member gets one.
See a dermatologist first to confirm that the rash is ringworm, as it can be easily confused with dry skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. When ringworm affects the scalp, groin or feet, it is often treated with prescribed topical antifungal medications. Oral antifungal medications are often needed to treat more widespread ringworm on the body or scalp or on the nails.
Impetigo is a scratchy, scabby and highly contagious skin infection caused by direct person-to-person contact, or by contact with infected towels, bed sheets or clothes. It is much more common in children, and if found in adults the infection has usually been passed on through contact with affected children.
If someone in the family has impetigo, Yale Medicine dermatologist Ilya Lim says take care not to share clothing or linens and practicing frequent hand-washing. Showering or bathing daily, especially after sports matches or games, is also recommended.
Although unpleasant it can be treated easily before the infection progresses further. If you think your child has impetigo the first step is to see a dermatologist. Mild cases can be treated with topical antibiotics while more severe cases require prescription oral antibiotics. JB
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