Fever and skin rashes (contagious diseases)

Many children develop fever and a rash (pimples or red patches, or both) at the same time. This could be a sign of infection. Most of these infections are caused by viruses and last a few days. They go away by themselves and have no long-term effects.

The most common infections are roseola and hand, foot and mouth disease. There’s also fifth disease and scarlet fever, but they rarely occur in children under two.

Thanks to vaccination programs, measles and rubella are now very rare. Chickenpox is also becoming less common due to the recent introduction of a vaccine.

Roseola

Roseola is characterized by a high fever that stops after 3 to 5 days. Small pink spots then appear on the face, neck, and trunk. By the time the spots or redness appear, the child is almost healed.

Roseola is caused by a virus. It is common in children 3 to 24 months old.

We don’t know how it spreads. There is no vaccine to prevent it, but it’s not very contagious. Once better, the child is probably protected for life.

In most cases, the child’s general condition is good during the illness. She may return to her normal activities as soon as she’s feeling well enough.

What to do?

There is no treatment for roseola.

You can give your child acetaminophen if she’s not feeling well and is feverish. You can also use ibuprofen if she’s over 6 months old.

You don’t have to quarantine her. She can return to her usual activities as soon as she’s feeling better.

Hand, foot, and mouth disease

Hand, foot, and mouth disease is another type of viral infection. It usually occurs in the summer and generally affects young children.

It can cause fever, discomfort, and small, painful ulcers in the mouth. Small red pimples or little blisters may appear on the hands and feet, and sometimes on the rest of the body.

Hand, foot, and mouth disease is generally not serious.

What to do?

There is no treatment for this infection, which can last 7 to 10 days. Your child can continue to go to daycare if he feels well enough to join in the activities.

Bacterial meningitis

Children are vaccinated against the three main bacteria that cause meningitis: meningococcus, pneumococcus, and Hæmophilus influenzæ. As a result, these infections are now rare. They do occur occasionally because vaccines don’t cover all strains of the bacteria.

Children with meningitis quickly become very ill. They have fever, pain, and headache. They may become irritable and very sleepy. Red or blue spots may appear on the body.

Children with bacterial meningitis appear very ill, and parents will want to consult a doctor right away.

Viral meningitis

Various viruses cause this type of meningitis. There is no specific treatment. It is usually not dangerous and generally goes away without causing any lasting effects.

What to do if your child has a fever and a rash

Generally the presence of a rash (i.e., pimples or red patches on the skin) with fever does not indicate a serious illness. It’s usually better to consider the child’s general condition rather than the presence of a rash or how high the fever is.

Keep a close eye on your child’s general condition, behavior, and other symptoms. It’s normal for a feverish child to need more cuddling and be less hungry than usual. Contact Info-Santé or your doctor if your child has a rash and has been feverish for over 72 hours.

The Canadian Paediatric Society has a website for parents that provides more information on these contagious illnesses and on vaccination: www.caringforkids.cps.ca.