Skin Changes On Your Child That You Shouldn't Ignore

Have you ever taken your child to the dermatologist? It can be tough to know when it's necessary - after all, they get all kinds of scrapes, and it's normal for their skin to change as they grow.

However, there are a few skin changes that you should never ignore. Take your child to a pediatric dermatologist right away if you see any of these:

  • Changing mole: A mole that grows, changes color or bleeds warrants an urgent call to a pediatric dermatologist (try to get in this week). Although skin cancers in children are rare, they do occur. Also keep in mind the ABCD rule of melanoma skin cancers. Make an appointment immediately if any of your child's moles are: Asymmetric - have an irregular shape where one side doesn't mirror the other; have Borders that are fuzzy or indistinct; are Colored with more than one hue, or include black, white, red or yellow coloring; or have a Diameter larger than a pencil eraser. Click here for more on the early signs of skin cancer.
  • Blisters and a fever: An outbreak of blisters and fever could indicate a serious problem, especially if the child has 10 or more blisters. See your dermatologist immediately if this occurs to rule out serious problems.
  • Skin infection: If a cut or scratch is red, feels warm and shows yellow puss -- especially if your child complains of pain -- this is a sign of an infection. A pediatric dermatologist will be able to clean the cut and make sure it heals properly, with the smallest amount of scarring.
  • Reddish birthmark: A large reddish birthmark in the midline of the face, or one that gets in the way of a child's vision, can be treated with cortisone or with a laser (depending on the type of birthmark). One type of red birthmark, known as a port wine stain, can be a symptom of a rare neurological disorder called Sturge-Weber syndrome. While many reddish birthmarks will fade or even go away by the time your child is around 9 years old, others should be treated as early as possible. A dermatologist will be able to tell you what type of birthmark you are dealing with.
  • Large brown birthmark: A brown birthmark larger than a quarter can, rarely, be a symptom of neurofibromatosis, an inherited disease in which nerve tissues grow into tumors.
  • Dry, itchy skin: Dry, itchy skin, usually behind the knees and in the bend of the arm, can be a symptom of eczema. Also known as atopic dermatitis, eczema results from a combination of dryness and sensitivity, and allergies can also play a role. Prescription medicines, including topical corticosteroids and non-steroid creams such as Elidel, can help heal eczema and reduce itching.
  • A newborn with pustules on the face and body: Any unusual skin changes such as blisters, redness, skin peeling and pustules should be shown to your pediatrician. These are often not problematic but can be a sign of serious disease -- so exercise caution with any newborns and bring them in to the pediatrician right away.
  • Dry, white scales in the scalp: These may be caused by dandruff, reaction to chemicals in shampoos, lice or fungal infections. Fungal infections of the scalp are very common in children and should be treated as soon as possible to prevent spreading to other children.
  • White swollen bumps with umbilications (concavity) in the center- these are often a virus known as molluscum contagiosum. These must be treated by a dermatologist to prevent spread to other children. Usually adults are immune to this and do not develop the lesions, but frequently other children in the household will become infected. This condition is not dangerous but the bumps are difficult to get rid of and are very contagious.
  • Acne- Why waste your money on over-the-counter products when your insurance will likely cover the most effective acne treatments? Seeing a dermatologist early can prevent acne scarring and the self esteem issues that often result in adolescents suffering from breakouts.

Besides these symptoms, you should trust your instincts if something is nagging at you, and don't hesitate to take your child to see a specialist.

How do you find a pediatric dermatologist? Head to the American Academy of Dermatology's website and use its [ Find a Dermatologist] page. Enter your zip code and choose Pediatric Dermatology from the Specialties menu. You can also look for a university medical school near you, which will likely have a dermatologist who specializes in pediatric dermatology.

Wishing you great skin!


Dr. Baumann is author of the best-selling book, " The Skin Type Solution." To learn more about her revolutionary skin typing system, visit her Web site,

All of Dr. Baumann's recommended skin care products are available online, and a portion of proceeds goes to The Dermatology Foundation.

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