Spots and rashes in pictures in children, toddlers & babies

Chickenpox, measles, meningitis or heat rash? Our real-life photos and expert medical advice from NHS family GP will help you identify the most common rashes and spots on your baby, toddler or child's skin

children spots and rashes

Some of the most common children’s illnesses come with spots and rashes on the skin. Working with expert family NHS GP Dr Philippa Kaye, we’ve compiled a guide, with real-life pictures, to help you identify the 22 most common childhood, toddler and baby spots and rashes – and how they appear on different skin colours, including white and black skin.

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We’ve included:

  • Images of certified real cases
  • Appearance and location of spots or rash
  • Most common age for this condition
  • Symptoms to look out for
  • Other conditions each rash may commonly be mistaken for
  • What to do if you think your child has one of the conditions we’ve identified

Please note that this article is for guidance only. If you have any concerns about your child’s health, it is always best to consult your doctor or health professional.

Here are the most common children’s rashes and spots in pictures…

1. Chickenpox

What does a chickenpox rash look like?

Crops of spots, which then turn into small fluid-filled, itchy blisters. “Over a few days, the blisters crust over, forming little scabs,” says Dr Philippa.

Where on my child’s body? Anywhere, including on the scalp. They may appear in clusters or spread all over.

At what age? Any age, including babies.

How common? Extremely common.

How can I tell it’s chickenpox and not something else?

“Initially, the little spots look like lots of other things,” says Dr Philippa. You might mistake them for insect bites, impetigo (see number 7, below) or hand, foot and mouth (see number 10, below). “But,” says Dr Philippa, “it’s the blistering rash that follows that’s the classic sign.”

Are there other chickenpox symptoms?

“Often a child may have a fever, aches and pains and loss of appetite for a few days before the rash appears,” says Dr Philippa. “By the time the rash appears, they are often feeling well again – but the rash can be very itchy.”

What do I do if I think my child has it?

Treat the fever and soothe the itch. “And, as it’s very infectious, you should keep your child at home until all the spots have crusted over,” says Dr Philippa.

2. Heat rash or prickly heat

Heat rash or prickly heat

What does heat rash look like?

Tiny, pin-sized, red or pink bumps or blisters.

Where on my child’s body? Anywhere but most often in skin creases and/or in places tightly covered by clothing, says Nina Goad from the British Association of Dermatologists.

At what age? Any age.

How common is it? Pretty common, especially in young babies, and obviously more common during hot weather. 

How can I tell it’s heat rash and not something else?

Heat rash is an obvious 1st guess if it’s a hot day and your child has been running around and/or is wrapped up/dressed warmly or has been positioned close to a heat source (such as a radiator).

Are there other heat rash symptoms?

Your child’s skin will feel hot, and it’s likely your child’s cheeks will look hot, too. The rash can feel itchy, stingy or prickly.

What do I do if I think my child has it?

It usually goes away on its own but you can ease symptoms with fluids and a cool bath. “You don’t need to see a doctor,” says Dr Philippa, “unless you’re worried your child is very dehydrated.”

3. Meningitis

meningitis rash
Pic: MeningitisUK.org

What does a meningitis rash look like?

Pinprick spots which spread quickly and then become purple or red blotches. The pinprick spots can be harder to see on black skin but may be more visible on the soles of the feet and the palms of the hands. The rash doesn’t fade (or ‘blanch’), even for a few seconds, when pressed with a glass.

Where on my child’s body? Anywhere.

At what age? Any age.

How common is it? It’s pretty rare, thanks to childhood immunisations.

How can I tell it’s meningitis and not something else?

“A non-blanching rash can occur for other reasons,” says Dr Philippa, “but if your child is also unwell or too sleepy to wake up, then you should seek urgent medical help.

What are other meningitis symptoms?

Your child will probably, and suddenly, be very unwell, with some or all of the following symptoms: high fever, floppiness, cold fingers and toes, drowsiness/unresponsiveness, looking blue, an odd cry.

What do I do if I think my child has it?

You should seek urgent medical help.

4. Measles

Measles

What does a measles rash look like?

A fine rash that looks red on white skin but not black skin. It starts small, then becomes blotchy, and the surface of the skin feels rough, like sandpaper.

Where on my child’s body? It often starts on the head or neck and then moves down the body.

At what age? Any age but most common between the ages of 1 and 4.

How common is it? “Measles is not as common as it was because of the MMR immunisation,” says Adam Finn, Professor of Paediatrics at the University of Bristol. “But anyone who has not been properly vaccinated is potentially at risk.”

How can I tell it’s measles and not something else?

A measles rash can look similar to a rubella, roseola or scarlet fever rashes. But children with measles often have small, greyish-white spots (called Koplik’s spots) on the inside of their cheeks before the main body rash appears.

What are other measles symptoms?

“Children with measles are generally unwell with high fever, sore, red eyes, a dry cough and a runny nose,” says Dr Philippa. “They may also show sensitivity to light.”

What do I do if I think my child has it?

“Phone your GP,” says Dr Philippa. “You will be seen but you may have to wait in a side room to avoid infecting others. Give your child plenty of fluids and age-appropriate doses of medications to reduce the fever.”

5. Eczema

What does an eczema rash look like?

“Very dry skin with inflamed patches that are red (on white skin) or either paler or darker (on black skin),” says Dr Philippa. “The skin may crack and blister and look scaly.”

Where on my child’s body? Anywhere but, in babies, it’s more common on the face and arms. For toddlers and older children, it’s more common on hands, insides of elbows and backs of knees.

At what age? From as early as 2 months. 

How common is it? It’s the most common skin condition in young children, affecting 15 to 20% of those between 0 and 5 years.

How can I tell it’s eczema and not something else?

It’s the location, says Dr Philippa, on the ‘flexural aspects’ of the body. “That’s the insides of the elbows, wrists and knees,” she explains, “as well as under the neck and on the face.”

What are other eczema symptoms?

It’s incredibly itchy – so much so that your child might find it hard to sleep. Scratching the itch can also cause secondary infections, leading to large, weepy or crusty areas of skin.

What do I do if I think my child has it?

“Avoid using soaps and perfumed products,” says Dr Philippa.”Instead, use simple emollient products, putting on moisturising cream at least 4 times a day. See your GP if things don’t improve.”

6. Rubella or German measles

rubella rash

What does a rubella rash look like?

Tiny, flat spots, which merge to form patches. The spots look pinkish-red on white skin; they can be harder to see on black skin but might feel rough and bumpy.

Where on my child’s body? It usually starts on the forehead and behind the ears, and then spreads to the face and body.

At what age? Any age.

How common is it? “Less common since the advent of the MMR vaccine,” says Dr Philippa, “although cases have been on the up in places like the US, where uptake of the vaccine has reduced.”

How can I tell it’s rubella and not something else?

Your child may have swollen glands at the back of the neck or beneath the ears. The rash spreads very rapidly (within hours) but then fades quickly (within 2 days).

What are other rubella symptoms?

Often, a child will feel unwell – cough, sore throat, runny nose – for 1 to 2 days before the rash appears. Then they have a fever. Rubella can also cause aching wrists, fingers or knees.

What do I do if I think my child has it?

“Phone your GP,” says Dr Philippa. “If you need to go in, expect to have to wait in a side room to avoid infecting others.” Rubella causes a mild illness in children but can seriously affect a baby in the womb, if passed on to a pregnant woman.

7. Impetigo

What does impetigo look like? 

There are 2 types of impetigo: bullous impetigo and non-bullous impetigo, says Dr Clive Grattan, consultant dermatologist at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital, London. “Bullous impetigo causes large, painless, fluid-filled blisters, and non-bullous impetigo causes sores that rupture quickly and leave a yellowy brown crust (as above).”

Where on my child’s body? Usually clustered around the nose and mouth (though it can appear anywhere on the body).

At what age? It’s most common among 2 to 5-year-olds.

How common is it? “It is pretty common in childhood,” Dr Philippa says, “and it’s highly contagious.”

How can I tell if it’s impetigo and not something else?

Impetigo can look a bit like cold sores (see number 20, below) or chickenpox (see number 1, above) but it doesn’t tingle like cold sores do. Also, impetigo (a bacterial infection) tends to attack skin that’s already damaged by things such as cuts, scratches or insect bites.

What are other impetigo symptoms?

There aren’t really any. “Children are generally not unwell with impetigo,” says Dr Philippa, “although, of course, it can be very uncomfortable.”

What do I do if I think my child has it?

“Take them to the doctor,” says Dr Philippa. “They will be treated with antibiotics (usually in a cream). It should clear up within a week or so.”

8. Ringworm