Q&A: rash on face of preschooler

You know, it's really difficult to write an internet advice column when your computer won't connect to your wireless connection. Gah. I'm up to here with Vista. I'm coming to you from the cafe near my apartment with the post that was supposed to go up yesterday.

Robin writes:

"Because of my work schedule, my daughter spends the weekend at her grandparents' once a month. Whenever I pick her up, she has a red rash on her cheeks. She doesn't get this rash at home, and after a day or two of putting my regular face lotion on her cheeks it fades away. I've been wracking my brain to figure out what could be causing it, but can't figure it out. (I don't want to say anything to my parents since the rash isn't painful to my daughter and I don't want to hurt their feelings because they seriously overreact to stuff like that.) They have cats, but so do I. She doesn't have environmental allergies. I don't think they're feeding her anything strange.

Do you or your readers have any ideas about what this could be? It's just red and kind of flaky, but not oozy and not really raised. and it doesn't hurt or make her itch."

Hmm. I wish we had a photo of this, as that would make it lots easier to diagnose.

I used to work in test prep, so my instinct is to use process of elimination to narrow down what it could be. I'm going to say that it's not anything fungal because it's not oozy and it goes away so quickly just with regular facial lotion.

I'm also going to say it's not a bacterial infection for the same reason.

It kind of sounds like the rash both of my kids have gotten (my older one grew out of it when he was around 5) from being out in the cold. A red, flaky rash that was helped by putting on lotion but would also go away on its own if I kept him out of the cold for a couple of days. So that may be worth thinking about, especially if she goes outside to play a lot at her grandparents and doesn't so much at your place.

You could take another look at food stuff. You say she doesn't eat anything "strange," but anything with artificial colors or flavors or additives could do it. And individual people are sensitive to all kinds of things (there are even people who are allergic to plain white rice), so it could be something healthy that your daughter's system just has a problem with.

The other thing I'm thinking is detergent or fabric softener on the pillows she sleeps on. That could definitely cause contact rashes. And if her skin gets a breather at your place, plus the lotion, that could explain it.

Readers, do you have any other ideas? Has anyone been through this?

62 thoughts on “Q&A: rash on face of preschooler”

  1. I like Moxie’s idea of cold air/windburn, but it also sounds like a possible contact allergy to me. Does she cuddle with anything unusual there? Are quilts brought out of mothballs for her to appreciate? Do they have the new-formula Puffs plus tissues while you use the regular kind? Does she do dishes while wearing those long latex dish gloves?You could try using (with your ped’s agreement) a mild OTC cortisone cream on one cheek and regular lotion on the other next couple of times this happens to see if cortisone clears the rash faster. If it does, allergy or at least chemical sensitivity is supported.

  2. Contact allergy is a good suggestion. I am the Queen of Rash myself and get contact allergies to all kinds of soaps and detergents, so Moxie is onto something there with the thought that it could be laundry detergent/softener.I’d also check what kind of soap is being used for bathing. For me, generic lotion soap with a lot of fragrance is a one-way ticket to an excema-type rash — has to be something really neutral, like Ivory or Dove.

  3. I’d go with the cold too. My son gets red blotches on his face even after 5 minutes out in the cold ( my daughter doesn’t). I showed the ped when he was arond 10 months (start of the cold weather) and she said it was the way dry skin due to exposure to the cold shows itself in small children/babies. She suggested moisturiser before going outside, which I usually forget to do, but it does help.

  4. I have no advice but my 16 month old keeps having bouts with something similar. In our case I’ve put it down to drooling combined with the cold weather. A few days of intensive moisturizing, and putting Vaseline around the outside of his mouth before we go out into the cold seems to clear it up.

  5. ITA some kind of contact dermatitis from a detergent or softener on the pillowcase or towels. Also perhaps a different soap/bath additive than you usually use? My dd just got over something that sounds EXACTLY like this & that’s what it was. 1% cortisone applied one time cleared it up.

  6. Do your parents keep their house warmer than you do? I have mild rosacea on my cheeks, and my main trigger is heat and sweating. Mine looks like a heat-rash mixed with mild acne. Although I guess there are many possible triggers for rosacea in addition to heat…

  7. Does your father have a beard? My husband shaves during the week, but on the weekends, he has a little stubble. If he rubs his cheek on hers to cuddle with her, her cheek gets a red rash on it, similar to what you’re describing. Hmmmm…

  8. Maybe perfume or cologne? Or fabric softener? I have a lot of fragrance-based allergies, and if DD is sleeping over, she would have body contact with the pillow only if she’s wearing jammies from home.

  9. I don’t really have any new ideas of what it might be, but I do have a suggestion to try to get more info: if it is chapping from cold, then putting some protectant on BEFORE exposure might help. I used to buy runner’s glide when I ran, to protect my legs from chafing, and I found something similar in the baby products aisle when Pumpkin went through a phase of having chapped cheeks. It is a stick that looks like a little deodorant, and I think Johnson and Johnson Naturals made it. I suspect petroleum jelly would work, too, but the sticks are less messy. We’d put it on before going out on a windy day, and that helped keep her cheeks from chapping.Also, I think it is worth talking to your parents and comparing laundry brands. I had a polka-dot rash for 6 weeks once before I finally tracked it down to the dryer sheets I’d bought. It is hard to really figure these rashes out, because household products don’t have to tell you what is in them, so I couldn’t really compare ingredient lists.
    Good luck. Rashes are frustrating.

  10. Left field answer: My son nuzzles my husband when he hasn’t shaved and gives himself beard burn. :)But really I vote for contact allergy, if not cold. I get rashes from most laundry detergents. Try sending a pillowcase from home and see if that helps.

  11. It could be the heat source that they have. We have a gas space heater that we use on cold days. Sometime it dries my daughter’s cheeks and they turn red. The same goes for the fireplace.

  12. I’d like to second (third? fourth? anyway.) the sheets/pillowcases idea. I have super sensitive skin, and ever time I stayed at my grandmother’s house when I was a child– which was every other weekend– I would get rashes, especially on my face. It was because she used Tide laundry detergent which is like poison to my skin. Cortisone helps, but the super awesome miracle cream we finally got from my childhood dermatologist (that I still use) was a compound– it’s called acid mantle cream, and has 1% cortisone mixed in. So, it takes care of the rash and then the acid mantle part balances the skin’s ph, which is half the battle when it comes to reactions. Best. Stuff. Ever.

  13. Hmm. My immediate family is very prone to rashiness – here are the things that spring to mind:cold air/windburn from playing outside
    beard burn from Grandpa
    detergent reaction from pillowcase
    hot dry air if they keep their house warmer than yours
    reaction form some other chemical exposure – do they get their carpet shampooed a lot. Does she like to lie on the floor with her cheek pressed to it? (I used to do that as a kid…)
    It sounds like, if it isn’t hurting her much, it might not be worth a conversation if they’re sensitive, but some discreet detective work. Next time you’re in their laundry room, check out the detergent on the shelf. If you suspect the rug, say “Gosh mom, your rug is so delightfully clean! Did you shampoo it yourself or did you hire someone?” (though it could be one of those sprinkle-on deodorizers…)

  14. Here’s another vote (FWIW) for contact allergy and another pillowcase. Also heat source could be a good guess. If you have radiator type heat at home, forced air can be very drying.

  15. I’d tend to think some sort of mild contact allergy to a different soap, laundry detergent, or some such.I think the only way to really narrow it down is to enlist the grandparent’s help. I would think that as long as it’s phrased as a straightforward “my daughter seems to have developed some sort of allergy, and I’d like you to help me figure out what it is” rather than “what are you doing to give my daughter a rash”, it shouldn’t cause offense to ask them about her normal weekend routine. I’d suggest having them make a note of what products they use around her (laundry detergent, soaps, shampoos, etc), and if any of them are different from the brands you use, try sending her with some of your normal brands to see if that makes a difference.
    Also, just because you also have cats doesn’t necessarily mean that she can’t be reacting to their cats. I know many people who will develop a tolerance to the dander of certain individual animals that they are exposed to on a regular basis, but will have allergies to other individuals of the same species. For instance my husbands has mild cat allergies – he no longer experiences allergies from being around our cats, but if he gets into close contact with someone else’s cats, he’ll have a mild reaction. So it could be that a once a month exposure isn’t enough to let her build up a tolerance.
    If this continues to happen and the cause continues to be a mystery, it might be worthwhile to have some allergy screening done to see if you can figure out if there are any specific substances that she might be reacting to.

  16. My 9 mo gets the same thing on cooler, drier days while at DC – her cheeks/nose gets red and dry, and it clears up after a couple of days with lotion (characterized by sloughing off of the dry skin). The first time it happened, I freaked, but process of elimination proved that hers was weather-related. Never gets it on rainy weeks, etc., but extra compounded during heavy drooling days.While the grandparents may be sensitive about it, I’m sure that they notice it themselves and may be wracking their brains to figure it out and worried that you’re upset about it. Maybe a very neutral conversation with a “let’s figure this out” type approach will help. Or maybe not, grandparents are funny sometimes 😉

  17. I agree with either a reaction to the cold, or dryness or contact allergy. My son gets the same thing on his cheeks from the cold and my guess is it is also exacerbated by the dryness inside when the furnace is going all the time.

  18. I used to get a rash on my cheeks. My mom finally realized that if I used one of the cotton pillowcases (rather than the poly-cotton blend one that matched my sheets) it would go away after a few days. So I’m going to second (sixth?) the suggestion of sending a pillowcase from home. Actually, you could just sent a whole pillow from home and avoid some potential weirdness if you really don’t feel like explaining the problem.

  19. Does she lay on a couch while she’s there, perhaps to watch a little TV? I used to get a nasty red rash on my cheeks from the nubby fabric on my parents’ couch.

  20. A rash that’s not painful? Doesn’t hurt? Doesn’t itch? And is cured by regular facial lotion? I understand being a worried mom, and wanting total perfection in your child’s skin, but this seriously sounds like nothing worth freaking out so much about.

  21. Contact allergy sounds possible, or my son occasionally gets something like that after a few days of extremely low humidity in my apartment (we have whatever that nasty NYC heating system is that makes all of the apartments so damn dry). Low humidity < 15% or so.

  22. @Anon: I don’t see where anyone is “freaking out so much” about it. It’s just a request from one mom to another for some BTDT advice. Not to speak for Moxie, but snarky, judgmental replies to sincere requests for help aren’t very welcome on this site.My thanks to all the moms who take time out of their day to share their experiences and advice. And especially to Moxie – this site has been my lifeline more than once for issues that may very well have been deemed ‘nothing to freak out about’ by some. Because when it comes to my kid, nothing is to trivial IMO.

  23. Um, anon. I’m not really sure where the poster is “freaking out so much.” If my kid was getting rash, I’d want to know what caused it, if for no other reason than to make sure I didn’t inadvertently bring whatever it was into my own home. I’m sure if this were happening to your own skin on a regular basis you’d just live with it? Just not understanding the hostility.

  24. Rash is inflammation, and inflammation can lead to problems later. If you can’t solve it, you can’t. But if you can, with a little investigation, WHY NOT?My kids had this same rash for a while – kind of a dry shiny rash that would go away. It was the detergent/softener reaction, in our case. It was worst on the child who was post-due (post-due baby syndrome isn’t much talked about, because the main issue is they have dry skin that is more prone to rashes – lotion lotion lotion! Not a biggie, but nice to know to watch for).
    Same votes here – contact/friction, environmental, cold. Oh, and preventive measures can help – aquaphor is a good barrier as well as a moisturizer. Just have them put it on him regularly (thin frequent applications). 🙂

  25. My husband’s mom loves her Glade plug ins.My son sometimes comes back with irritated skin after being at her house for a bit.
    Also, if your son is their all weekend and is around an unshaven cuddly grandpa, he may be getting a scratchy beard rash.

  26. I’m guessing a contact rash. My son used to get the worst rash on his cheeks when his grandparents had been holding him. I think it was because he was a little baby resting his face on their clothes, on which they use heavily scented detergent, softeners, and dryer sheets. Now that he’s older and not so cuddly, the problem is solved. The in laws always used to comment that he had the rosiest cheeks, and I didn’t have it in me to tell them that it only happened at their house!

  27. @andisays and Diane, um, who exactly is being “snarky, judgmental, and hostile” now? Such kind replies to my comment, which I honestly didn’t mean to be taken in such a negative way at all! Thank you very much for the benefit of the doubt though. To answer your not very nice question, if this were happening to my own skin and regular lotion cured it? Hmm, I think I’d keep putting the lotion on it. Have a great day.

  28. do they add cinnamon to anything she eats when she’s there? my son would get a red splotchy rash on his face when he would eat a certain brand of instant oatmeal, and I could never figure out why, then when I added cinnamon to applesauce one day, he was bright red wherever the cinnamon touched on his cheeks. the oatmeal was apple/cinnamon.he can eat cinnamon in baked goods, just can’t handle undiluted contact.
    I agree that a preventive barrier of something might help.

  29. I would also suggest bringing your own pillowcases–pillows even, just to see if that helps clear things up. She may be getting it from the sheets too, if she’s s snuggler in bed. So, just pack a set of bedding for her to try out, and you can leave them there/exchange them when she visits.My toddler gets a rash when we visit Grandma and Grandpa’s house because they use a harsher detergent with fabric softeners, etc than we do at home. Even when we bring our own detergent to wash our clothes/sheets, he still gets a rash from the build-up in their washing machine and dryer!
    Good luck!

  30. “I understand being a worried mom, and wanting total perfection in your child’s skin, but this seriously sounds like nothing worth freaking out so much about.”Anon, the corrections given you were gently chiding in reaction to the “total perfection” and “freaking out” parts of your comment. This is a community of people who want to give serious and caring answers to “am I really stupid to ask this?” questions. Your answer plainly said that you thought she WAS stupid to ask, which isn’t the point of this forum. All right?

  31. Anon, I’m willing to take you at your word when you say you didn’t mean to be negative (though I’m not sure why you’d need to be anonymous otherwise though). But your first comment did sound negative to me when I read it. And then when people tried to point this out gently, you responded with sarcasm rather than something along the lines of “I’m sorry, that’s genuinely not what I meant,” and then reiterated your original view that the rash wasn’t that important by saying if it were your rash, you’d keep putting on lotion, no big deal.Like some previous posters have said, people who participate in this forum are supportive of each other, even if they have different approaches to various parenting challenges. Questions here range from really major things like how to talk to kids about death, to little things like mysterious, minor rashes.
    I think we all really value the positive atmosphere Moxie’s managed to create here, and realize how unusual it is on the Internet — anyone who’s spent any time on Internet forums at all has seen how nasty it can get. And as a reader since day 1, I can assure you that people here are very tolerant and welcoming of all opinions as long as they are expressed kindly.

  32. The FIRST thing I thought was beard burn. My son has sensitive skin, and he always gets a rash when DH doesn’t shave for a few days or when he snuggles with his grandpa with has a goatee.

  33. I too am thinking it is from kissing and cuddling! My son gets a rash when his “daddo” doesn’t shave that day. It is something I get to tease my husband about….quit kissing B so much!! Now as soon as my son hears me say this he starts laughing and laughing and says “no no Daddo”. He gets this rash only on Saturdays and Sundays!

  34. Does the grandpa have facial hair? Every time my boys spend time with my dad, they have “razor burn” (for lack of a better word) from nuzzling with him. That’s all we can figure out because it only happens when they are with him.

  35. When I was a child I started getting a strange rash on my hands when at my grandmother’s – who lived next door. I was doing embroidery when I was there – I had this red duck that I was cross-stitching – and the yarn had some coloring that was not good. Sometimes the reasons are very specific.

  36. I seem to recall Noah over at amalah.com getting a rash on his face like this because his grandpa had confused Clorox wipes with baby wipes…so it’s definitely worth a follow-up with the grandparents!

  37. this reminded me of something. in my 20s, i had a long distance boyfriend who i would only see like once a month. i remember that after he left everytime, i would have a rash on my cheeks and around my mouth… from all the kissing we did (heh). but if he stayed longer than a few days, that would go away. it’s like my body was “allergic” to his saliva for a few days and then got used to it?just a thought. maybe she’s just getting lots of love from grandma and grandpa. 🙂

  38. Beware of using cortisone on your face for extended periods of time. It does thin the skin (advice given to both me and to my son from dermatologists/pediatrician).

  39. My kid gets contact dermatitis from detergents and lotions with frangrance. But she also gets those “slapped cheeks” rashes when she gets tomato on her face. I use only aveeno lotion for her and it seems to work better than anything.

  40. My daughter get rashes on the face from 2 things. Being licked by a dog (maybe the grandparent cats are kissers?) and wool. Cut pile rugs seem to be the worst, I have some flat woven rugs that are not a problem. I bet it’s where she is lying down, sofa or floor.

  41. Could be their cat, even though you have cats. Sometimes we become immune to our own, but not others’ cats. Does she get the same rash when she’s over at other people’s houses who have cats?

  42. Oh my gosh i have never heard of anything like it! Keep us pestod! although its not funny i think i may use this at 5am tomorrow when little hands are tapping me on the shoulder and telling me to get out of bed now.belinda recently pestod..

  43. funny I ve poison oak too, now over a week,finally saw the dotcor and got a prescription of prednisone and been washing all my bedding,clothes,pet,etc The alcohol is good for cleaning the stuff you touch(door knob, light switch,steering wheel,telephone,etc.), so you will not re-infect yourself with poison oak again and again, unfortunately, it takes at least 2-3 weeks before it goes away Last time I had a real bad rash, went to ER and was told it was ok to dab a mixture of bleach and water to dry up the rash and he also gave me those steroid pills, which took another week to go away, eventhough it was already 2 1/2 weeks.. It just bad stuff.. The best thing to do, in the future, is, if you are anywhere near poison oaks, right after you go home,wash all clothing,bathe with technu for the next 2 days, which was my fault, to forget and that is why I got poison oak again, it has been yrs

  44. You should be fine if you pump about as often as your baby nseurs to keep up your supply. Since it will be when your baby is so young it will be best if you work very hard at getting your supply up to begin with. I suggest feeding your baby every 2 hours for the first 4 weeks. When I first started pumping it would take like 20 minutes to empty each breast, but just pump until the milk stops coming and you feel empty. You may have to massage gently to get it all out. Pumping does get easier. I started practising at about 4 weeks but didn’t return to work until LO was 12 weeks. But don’t worry 2 days won’t cause permanent damage if you pump. Don’t give in to the idea that your baby needs more milk unless your baby isn’t gaining weight. ****** feeding is hard at first. Just trust your instinct. Good luck!

  45. You can talk to the pharmacist but most miiecdnes available over the counter are meant for a year and over. You will have your first pediatrician appointment at 1 week and no later then 1 month old so you can request a fever reducer prescription at that point if the doctor allows that. Some doctors do not want small babies exposed to fever reducer until after 3 months because of risk of liver and kidney damage if mom or dad give to much. Besides really all you need after they are born are diaper ointment and some alcohol swabs for helping to dry out the umbilical cord. Ask the nurses in the hospital as well and they should have good advice as to what essentials are needed for small babies. Good luck and congrats on baby.

  46. Corn starch. It doesn’t have the cealichms that baby powder (even the 100% cornstarch one) does. I bought a salt/pepper shaker and use it with every changing, no diaper rash and it is harmless.Tylenol, as a matter of fact, 2. One for home, and one for the diaper b ag. It is better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.Little Tummys gas drops. Gas hurts.Teething tablets. Kind of like Tylenol, if you need it a 3am you’ll be happy you have it. And your daughter will be teething before you know it, time really does fly that fast.

  47. Prednisone (sp) is what helped me so much (when they falnliy gave me enough) with my “Mystery Rash of Aught-Nine.” (My doctor gave me a little dose, the ER docs thought she was super conservative, and it would seem they were right. I started seeing a change after my two trips to the hospital.)Wonderful that you kept pursuing someone to help you!

  48. I don’t know why My face always aornud the begging of Winter start’s to get dry skin and red irritation. I hate it. I had use all type of lotions and it don’t go away. it is really itchy at sometime. I have use fungus medicine like Tinactin on my face and it don’t work. The dry skin rash makes me look like if I have some type of diseases in my blood stream I start thinking to my self because I use all type of things to make it go away and noting work or it could be the brand of detergent I use. So please if anybody knows how to make this go away please E-mail me back.

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