Terms & Conditions

When should I take my toddler to the doctor for a rash?

Zariah Kale

Zariah Kale

Zariah is a writer, history nerd, amateur chef and mum of three. When she is not negotiating screen time with one of her two tweens, or falling asleep during movies, you'll find her scouring vintage shops for one-of-a-kind pieces or apologising to friends for the "late reply" over text.
Created on Oct 30, 2023 · 7 mins read

The words ‘toddler’ and ‘rash’ should never be in the same sentence. Unfortunately, they are, and quite often too. And if you thought your toddler was a handful before, then a toddler with a rash is much, much worse!

The constant complaining and the endless scratching are just the tip of the iceberg. But then again, it’s understandable because rashes can be quite annoying and even painful, at times.  Apart from the tedious guesswork that’s involved, there’s also a constant need to monitor the rash.

“Okay, does it look worse because he just won’t stop scratching? Or is it getting worse?” And, “Is it an allergic reaction? Wait, it could be a heat rash? Oh no, what if it’s something more serious?

Do we run to the ER?” Well, here’s a quick 101 on rashes in toddlers, so you can decide when to simply treat it at home and when to call your doctor.

First, let’s look at a viral rash and an allergic rash in toddlers:

What does a viral rash on a toddler look like?

A viral rash in a toddler can take several forms, depending on the type of virus that is causing the sickness. Some common traits and patterns, however, can aid in the identification of a viral rash.

Here are a few key characteristics that are commonly related to viral rashes in toddlers:


The rash usually looks like red spots or blotches. Depending on the intensity of the viral infection, the colour might range from light pink to deep red.

Pattern of spread

A viral rash usually begins in one area of the body and then spreads to other parts. It can spread locally, affecting a single region, or more widely, covering a broader body area. Depending on the virus, the distribution and pattern of spread can differ.

Bumpy or spotty rash

Yes, rashes do come in all shapes and sizes. A bumpy or spotty rash may have little raised bumps, flat areas, or a combination of the two. The texture of the lumps can vary, and they may be filled with fluid or pus in some cases. The bumps or patches can appear dispersed or crowded together.

Itching and discomfort

‘Honey, please stop scratching, or it will get worse!’ While viral rashes usually produce modest discomfort, many do cause itching. The level of irritation or discomfort, on the other hand, may vary depending on the viral infection and the child’s reaction.

Fever and other symptoms

Viral rashes are frequently accompanied by other symptoms of viral illness, such as fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat, and overall malaise. These additional symptoms can help distinguish a viral rash from other types of rashes.

What does an allergy rash look like on a toddler?

A toddler’s allergy rash can take on a variety of forms, depending on the allergen and the body’s reaction to it. Yep, in most cases, it’s something we have come across or ingested. And a toddler on a mission to explore the world makes the perfect target.

Toddler allergic rashes are primarily caused by the immune system’s reaction to an irritant like a food, drug, insect bite, or contact with particular materials.

An allergic rash can be recognised by focusing on the following:

First off, how severe is it? Redness and inflammation are prominent features of allergy rashes. The affected skin region may appear red and irritated, indicating an allergic reaction. Depending on the severity of the allergic reaction, this redness might range from mild to severe.

Then there’s the itching. Itching is a frequent symptom, and toddlers may have varied degrees of itching, which can cause discomfort and lead to continuous scratching. Although it does feel good to scratch, it may result in more itching and even potential skin damage.

Sometimes, allergy rashes manifest as raised pimples or hives. The size and shape of these elevated patches on the skin can vary. In some cases, the rash may show little pimples, while in others, the skin may develop giant hives. These lumps or hives can have a smooth or somewhat gritty texture.

Too much detail? Welcome to parenthood. Another characteristic of allergic rashes is swelling and the production of small blisters. However, this varies depending on the intensity of the reaction.

In some cases, the swelling in the affected area makes the rash more visible. Sometimes, small blisters filled with clear fluid may also form on the skin. Fortunately, that happens in some very rare cases. If you do feel your child is having an allergic rash, it is best to consult a doctor.

When is it time to take my toddler to the doctor for a rash?

Navigating the world of rashes and judging their severity may be a stressful experience for any parent. We all want our children to be healthy and happy, so it’s natural to be concerned when you notice an unusual rash on your child.

The good news is that you can handle it if you know what to look out for and are prepared in advance. If the rash does not appear to be improving after a few days, you should consult with your doctor.

As a parent, trust your instincts and don’t be afraid to seek advice when necessary. There’s no harm in getting your doctor’s opinion.

How do you know if a rash is serious?

It is important to know that certain symptoms may signal a more serious rash and demand that you get emergency medical intervention. ASAP. Yes, I mean, run to the ER!

If you find your child having difficulty breathing or swallowing, you must act quickly and seek medical attention. Allergic reactions can be extremely dangerous, and your child’s safety is our main priority.

Similarly, if you notice the rash spreading quickly throughout your child’s body or covering a large area, or if it is accompanied by troubling symptoms such as a high temperature, severe headache, stiff neck, confusion, or anything else, don’t disregard these warnings.

Reaching out to a healthcare professional enables a full evaluation and proper medical care for your child.

Um, is the rash contagious?

We love it when our kids share, but we really don’t want them to pass on their rash to a sibling or friend. But are rashes contagious, like the common cold? The answer is yes. Some rashes can spread. However, whether they are contagious or not is determined by the underlying cause of the rash.

Rashes that are contagious

Infectious agents such as viruses, bacteria, or fungi can produce rashes. These contagious rashes can be passed from person to person via direct contact or through contact with contaminated things.

Chickenpox, measles, impetigo, and ringworm are all instances of contagious rashes. To prevent the spread of these rashes, it is critical to take precautions such as avoiding close sibling contact with a sick child, practising excellent hygiene, and adequately sanitising toys and other common surfaces.

Rashes that are not contagious

Allergies, irritants, or underlying medical disorders are common causes of non-contagious rashes. These rashes are not passed from person to person. Allergic reactions, for example, can cause rashes, but they are personal and not communicable.

Non-contagious rashes include those that come with skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis.

It is critical to consult a healthcare practitioner for an accurate diagnosis to determine whether a rash is communicable. They can assess the rash, determine the underlying cause, and advise on whether it is contagious and, if so, how to prevent its spread.

Seeking medical advice if you fear your child has a contagious rash will help safeguard your child’s well-being and avoid another week of itching!

Related Articles

Hot topic: What you need to know about heat rash
What are the food safety guidelines for infants and toddlers in Australia?
5 things in your home that could be affecting your child’s health

Related Articles

Follow us on
Loved this article?
Share with a friend

Hey parents!


Get paid to review the latest brands and products