Ouch! Summer rashes, spots and bites in pictures

How to tell the difference between prickly heat rash, hives, sunburn and an insect bite

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  • Prickly heat

    What is it?

    Also known as heat rash or miliaria, prickly heat is a red, itchy rash accompanied by a prickling sensation – hence the name.

    How does it happen?

    Prickly heat often occurs during the hotter months and is thought to be caused by blockages in the sweat glands. Young children and babies are more prone to it as their sweat glands aren’t yet fully developed. The rash can appear anywhere on the body, but it usually shows up on areas that are exposed to the sun or in skin folds.

    What can you do?

    Even though it’s nasty and annoying for children, prickly heat is not serious and will normally disappear within a few days. “The best thing is to keep children cool,” says consultant paediatrician Dr Su Laurent. “Put them in a cool bath and pat them dry. Then dress them in light cotton clothing. It’s best to avoid synthetic fabrics, as they don’t let the skin breathe. If your little one’s really itching and unable to sleep, then an antihistamine syrup should help.”

    Mum’s story

    “Oli is very fair-skinned and he seems to overheat quite quickly and that’s when the rash appears – it usually only lasts about a day. We bring him indoors and turn the bath into a paddling pool so he can cool down.”

    Bekki Ford, 36, from Runcorn, mum to Oli, 5, and Evie, 2

  • Nettle rash (aka hives)

    What is it?

    A collection of itchy, reddish swellings, it can often disappear within hours and then reappear on a completely different part of the body. Also known as hives or urticaria.

    How does it happen?

    Despite the name, nettle rash isn’t caused by stinging nettles, although a brush with them can be one of the causes. It can often appear for no obvious reason but there are several possible causes – food allergy (for example strawberries), pollen, a jellyfish sting, an insect bite or too much sun.

    What can you do?

    Don’t panic – it should pass in a few hours, but if you are concerned, seek medical help. “Antihistamines reduce itching and the rash in most cases,” says Nina Goad of the British Association of Dermatologists. “Make sure you check with a doctor before giving your child medication though. Topical preparations such as calamine lotion can also be soothing.”

    Mum’s story

    “Edward gets this type of rash on and off during the summer. Sometimes we notice it after we’ve been in the sun or if he’s been sitting on the grass. There doesn’t seem to be any real pattern. He gets really distressed and then the more upset he gets the hotter he gets and the itchier the rash gets. We tend to keep antihistamine medicine at home to use before a warm day out to try and avoid it.”

    Julie McCallum, 26, from Edinburgh, mum to Edward, 5

  • Sunburn

    What is it?

    A red and painful skin ailment that can lead to serious skin conditions later in life.

    How does it happen?

    Caused by too much exposure to the sun.

    Wat can you do?

    Prevention is everything. Infants should never be exposed to direct sunlight, so remember to keep them covered, and always make them wear a hat. Loose, light clothing is just as cool as strappy sun tops and much safer. Use a high factor sunscreen (at least 30 spf) and reapply it every couple of hours, and after swimming. Avoid the sun during the hottest part of the day (between 11am and 3pm) and keep kids in the shade. Dr Su Laurent advises: “If they do start to get a little red, give them plenty of drinks of water, sponge them down with tepid water, smother them in aftersun lotion and keep them out of the sun for at least another 24 hours.”

    Mum’s story

    “Gabriel has eczema, so his skin’s very sensitive and coating him with sunscreen can often irritate things. We find keeping him covered is the best solution. Long sleeves are good, and on the beach a wetsuit is a must.”

    Sam Christmas, 38, from Swanage, Dorset, is mum to Isaac, 8, Gabriel, 5, and Ruby, 3

  • Stings/bites

    What are they?

    Small red, usually itchy or painful bumps. Sometimes there will be a hole in the centre of the lump and you might see a sting poking out.

    How does it happen?

    When a child disturbs or is attacked by an insect – usually a wasp, ant or horsefly.

    What can you do?

    It’s important to reassure your child as a sting or bite can be quite scary and painful. “But if the discomfort persists, anti-itch ointments and antihistamines can help, and these are available from a pharmacist. If the symptoms worsen or don’t go away, it may be worth taking your child to your doctor to make sure there’s no infection,” says Nina Goad. If you suspect there’s been an allergic reaction – if your child has difficulty breathing or their tongue swells – call 999 immediately.

    Mum’s story

    “Last summer, Ben was swimming and got stung by a drowning wasp. I never go anywhere without Anthisan (antihistamine cream) and it worked a treat, as did the ice lolly – which we put in his mouth not on the sting.”

    Claire Mills, 39, from Chipstead, Surrey, mum to Ella, 7, and Ben, 4

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