Many people equate dermatology care with adults. Yet, pediatric dermatologic care is also important.
Dermatologists treat skin disease across the lifespan. Their pediatric expertise spans from newborn skin diseases and conditions to teenage acne and eczema.
It’s often difficult to know though when your child should see a dermatologist though. Wasting time and money for skin problems that may clear on their own seems pointless. Yet, you don’t want to miss a serious problem by waiting too long or failing to get pediatric dermatologic care altogether.
So when is it time to get specialized medical care for your child’s skin problem? You should call a dermatologist when:
1. Your child’s pediatrician or specialist recommends he or she see a dermatologist.
Primary care is a vital part of your child’s medical care. Ideally, you already have an established relationship with a pediatrician or a group of pediatricians.
But, sometimes, skin disorders in children require a specialized approach. And often pediatricians will work with dermatologists to best treat a child’s skin condition.
Dermatologists offer specialized testing and treatment options for skin disorders that are not available in primary care offices.
Pediatric specialists in other fields occasionally refer to dermatologists as well. For example, some pediatric gastrointestinal disorders or rheumatological disorders require a multi-disciplinary approach. Doctors from various specialties may work together to best treat your child.
Likewise, your child’s dermatologist will refer you to your pediatrician or another specialist when needed. If part of your child’s condition requires additional non-skin related medical care, that may be best handled by another medical professional.
2. You notice a bump or mole that looks different.
Skin cancer is one of the most common and serious reasons adults seek dermatologic care.
However, skin cancer is not exclusively an adult problem.
Although it is rare in children, skin cancer can occur at any age. And in children, it can look different than adults, often presenting more as a bumpy, red lesion.
However, the same rules that apply for detecting skin cancer in adults should apply for children. If a growth is getting bigger, bleeding, changing color or “just doesn’t seem right” it should be checked by a dermatologist.
3. A skin rash reoccurs or won’t go away.
Skin rashes are extremely common conditions that affect most everyone at some point in their lives.
And skin rashes have a vast variety of causes. Contact irritants, childhood eczema, viruses and lots of other things can cause a skin rash in children and adults.
When a rash doesn’t disappear quickly on its own, or reoccurs after initially going away, dermatologic care may be needed. Some skin rashes can be signs that prescription medications or additional treatments are necessary.
Additionally, some skin conditions can become worse when not treated. Specialized medical care for skin conditions can help prevent that.
4. A skin rash becomes increasingly uncomfortable.
Although not all skin conditions create discomfort in children, some certainly can. Itchy or burning skin conditions can lead to problems that negatively affect your child. They include irritability, sleep disturbances, and an inability to concentrate in school.
Additionally, if untreated, skin conditions can become worse. Repeated itching can cause secondary skin infections and worsening of some skin conditions.
If over-the-counter medications do not control itching, it’s best to seek care from a dermatologist. He is she can help determine the cause and provide treatment for the problem as well as the symptoms.
5. Your child has hives on the skin that won’t go away or reappear.
Urticaria, or hives (itchy, red bumps that occur when the body releases histamine), is another common skin condition.
Hives are often caused by skin irritants and allergies. And sometimes, it’s easy to ascertain what your child has come in contact with that caused them. In these cases, over-the-counter treatments may be sufficient.
However, sometimes the allergen or irritant responsible for the hives isn’t immediately identifiable. Other times, the hives aren’t caused by an allergen or irritant at all. They can also be caused by things like stress, heat, an infection, or an illness.
Dermatologists can help you identify the cause of hives. They can also provide prescription medication if over-the-counter medications aren’t working.
6. Your child’s acne is not controlled by over-the-counter options.
Acne is a common skin conditions that affects both teens and adults. It can be especially prevalent in the teenage years because of hormonal changes.
However, just because acne is common does not mean it should go untreated.
While some minor acne can improve with over-the-counter creams, acne often requires medical treatment.
Untreated acne can lead to unnecessary scarring that can last a lifetime. It can also result in worsening of the condition. And acne can have negative effects on your child’s self-esteem.
Several treatment options are available for adolescent acne, including creams, oral medications, and light therapy. If your teen’s acne isn’t fairly easily controlled at home, it’s important for it to be treated medically.
7. You notice a skin rash with a ring around it.
One rash that should not be ignored is the one that indicates Lyme disease. A Lyme disease rash begins as a reddened area near the tick bite. The rash clears in the middle but increases in size. It then develops a red ring around it.
Many people will develop the rash without being aware they were bitten by a tick.
However, it’s important to see a dermatologist or primary care doctor if you notice the rash. Early detection of Lyme disease greatly improves treatment outcomes. Patients treated with antibiotics in the early stages of the infection usually recover rapidly and completely. Patients treated later typically respond well to antibiotics also, although the risk of damage to the nervous system or joints increases.
Patients who go untreated can develop lifelong and complications.
8. You child has molluscum or warts that are not responding to over-the-counter treatment.
Warts are a very common skin ailment that can affect people of any age. In teens and children, flat warts are especially common. These flesh colored or brown bumps can occur anywhere but are most prevalent on the face.
The good news is that even without treatment, one-fifth of all warts disappear within six months. And over-the-counter treatments can help treat warts in a more timely fashion.
However, in-office treatments are often required to help warts completely disappear. This is especially true for children who don’t tolerate the daily, many months or longer treatment required at home.
And it applies to molluscum, another wart-like condition caused by a virus that is different than the one that causes warts. Molluscum typically takes approximately 18 months to go away in its own. In-office treatments are the fastest way to get eradicate the virus.
9. Your child’s nails are discolored, thick, or appear abnormal.
Treatment of skin disorders encompasses the vast majority of what dermatologists do.
However, dermatologists also specialize in nail and hair disorders.
And, occasionally, children may need seen by a dermatologist if they develop a recurring problem involving their nails.
Many nail infections can be treated at home. However, fungal nail infections that do not go away or that become increasingly worse over time, should be evaluated. Sometimes prescription medications are needed.
Although not common, a nail disorder may occasionally be a sign of a more systemic problem. Examination by a dermatologist for recurring or persistent nail disorders can rule out or confirm a more serious problem.
10. Your child is losing hair.
Hair loss in children can be a surprising and frightening condition for parents.
Common causes of hair loss in children includes ringworm of the scalp and alopecia areata.
Hair loss due to physical and emotional stressors is also a cause of hair loss in pediatric populations. Trichotillomania is a type of hair loss caused by behaviors such as pulling or twisting the hair to the extent that it creates patches of baldness. Telogen effluvium is a condition in which the normal cycle of hair growth is interrupted due to a sudden stress.
Reassuringly, many cases of hair loss can be successfully treated. And hair loss is another area of expertise for dermatologists.