Child Dermatitis


What is Dermatitis? 

Almost all kids get itchy skin, rashes and hives at some point. Dermatitis is the medical term for the skin’s reaction to something that irritates it, and it is very common among children.

Causes of Dermatitis 

Contact dermatitis occurs when the skin comes into contact with an irritating substance, such as poison ivy or certain chemicals in detergents. Allergens, which are substances that trigger an allergic response, also may cause dermatitis.

Many substances can cause dermatitis in children. Among the most common:

  • Soaps and detergents
  • Lotions or creams
  • Perfumes or fragrances
  • Dyes in cosmetics and personal products
  • Plants
  • Metals (especially nickel and chrome)
  • Latex

Signs & Symptoms of Dermatitis

Dermatitis symptoms can range from mild to severe depending on the irritant and how sensitive a child’s skin is to it. For example, fragrance in detergent may cause slight redness in one child, while another may develop a serious rash. Some kids will have no reaction at all. Symptoms commonly include:

  • Itchy skin
  • Redness or swelling
  • Rash or hives
  • Dry or cracked skin
  • Blisters or peeling skin

Mercy Kids pediatricians and dermatologists are experts in diagnosing and treating all types of dermatitis. 

Treating Dermatitis

Specific treatments will depend on your child’s diagnosis, age, medical history and overall health.

Cold Compresses

Wet, cold compresses applied directly to the affected can provide relief from itching and inflammation.

Topical Medications

Mild dermatitis may respond to medications applied directly to the skin, such as cortisone cream. If an over-the-counter cortisone cream does not relieve the irritation, your pediatrician may prescribe a stronger one.


Oral antihistamines available over the counter or by prescription can help calm the reaction and relieve itching and swelling. Talk to your pediatrician first to be sure you’re using the right medication for your child.


Severe reactions may need to be treated with a prescription of oral steroids.

Should your child’s skin irritation last more than a few days, or doesn’t improve with home treatment, call your Mercy physician. Most cases of dermatitis can be easily treated with the right therapy. Plus, we’ll help you and your child figure out what triggered the reaction, and share tips to help you prevent skin problems in the future.

Mercy Kids

At Mercy Kids, we care for children from birth through adolescence, through anything childhood brings. Learn more about our children's care services.

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