Folliculitis (Child)

Folliculitis is an inflammation of a hair follicle. A hair follicle is the little pocket where a hair grows out of the skin. Bacteria normally live on the skin. But sometimes bacteria can get trapped in a follicle and cause inflammation or infection. This causes a bumpy rash. The area over the follicles is red and raised. It may itch or be painful. The bumps may have fluid (pus) inside. The pus may leak and then form crusts. Sores can spread to other areas of the body. Once it goes away, folliculitis can come back at any time.

Folliculitis can happen anywhere on a child’s body where hair grows. It can be caused by rubbing from tight clothing. It may also occur if a hair follicle is blocked by a bandage. Shaving the legs or the face may also cause folliculitis. 

Sores often go away in a few days with no treatment. In some cases, medicine may be given. A small piece of skin or pus may be taken to find the type of bacteria causing the infection.

Home care

The healthcare provider may prescribe an antibiotic or antifungal cream or ointment.  Oral antibiotics may also be prescribed. You may also be given an anti-itch medicine or lotion for your child. Follow all instructions when using these medicines.

General care

  • Apply warm, moist compresses to the sores for 20 minutes up to 3 times a day. You can make a compress by soaking a cloth in warm water. Squeeze out excess water. To prevent the spread of infection, be sure to wash this compress well after using it.

  • Don't let your child cut, poke, or squeeze the sores. This can be painful and spread infection.

  • Make sure your child does not scratch the affected area. Scratching can delay healing.

  • If the sores leak fluid, cover the area with a nonstick gauze bandage. Use as little tape as possible. Then call your healthcare provider and follow all instructions. Carefully discard all soiled bandages.

  • Dress your child in loose cotton clothing. Change your child’s clothes daily.

  • Change sheets and blankets if they are soiled by pus. Wash all clothes, towels, sheets, and cloth diapers in soap and hot water. Don't let your child share clothes, towels, or sheets with other family members.

  • If your child’s sores are on the buttocks, discard wipes and disposable diapers with care.

  • Don’t soak the sores in bath water. This can spread infection. Instead, keep the area clean by gently washing sores with soap and clean, running water.

  • Wash your hands and have your child wash his or her hands often to stop the bacteria from spreading to the people. You can also use an antibacterial gel to keep hands clean. 

Follow-up care

Follow up with your child’s healthcare provider if the sores start to leak fluid.

Special note to parents

Wash your hands with soap and clean, running water before and after caring for your child. This is to prevent spreading infection.

When to seek medical advice

Call your child’s healthcare provider or seek medical attention right away if any of the following occur:

  • Fever (see Fever and children, below)

  • Redness or swelling that gets worse

  • Pain that gets worse

  • Bad-smelling fluid leaking from the skin

Fever and children

Use a digital thermometer to check your child’s temperature. Don’t use a mercury thermometer. There are different kinds of digital thermometers. They include ones for the mouth, ear, forehead (temporal), rectum, or armpit. Ear temperatures aren’t accurate before 6 months of age. Don’t take an oral temperature until your child is at least 4 years old.

Use a rectal thermometer with care. It may accidentally poke a hole in the rectum. It may pass on germs from the stool. Follow the product maker’s directions for correct use. If you don’t feel okay using a rectal thermometer, use another type. When you talk to your child’s healthcare provider, tell him or her which type you used.

Below are guidelines to know if your child has a fever. Your child’s healthcare provider may give you different numbers for your child.

A baby under 3 months old:

  • First, ask your child’s healthcare provider how you should take the temperature.

  • Rectal or forehead: 100.4°F (38°C) or higher

  • Armpit: 99°F (37.2°C) or higher

A child age 3 months to 36 months (3 years):

  • Rectal, forehead, or ear: 102°F (38.9°C) or higher

  • Armpit: 101°F (38.3°C) or higher

Call the healthcare provider in these cases:

  • Repeated temperature of 104°F (40°C) or higher

  • Fever that lasts more than 24 hours in a child under age 2

  • Fever that lasts for 3 days in a child age 2 or older

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