Erythema Multiforme (Child)

Erythema multiforme is a skin rash. It’s caused by a hypersensitivity reaction. The reaction can be caused by many things These include viruses, bacteria, fungi, medicines, vaccines, or food.

At first, the skin may have round red bumps, fluid-filled blisters, or pimples. Most of these turn into a round circle with a small dark center. The entire area of the skin may be surrounded by a white ring. The sores may cause pain, burning, or itching. They occur most often on the forearms, legs, and back of hands and feet. In more severe cases, they may happen in the mouth or on the genitals. They are not contagious.

Treatment includes finding and treating or removing the cause. If a medicine may be the cause, you will be told to stop giving it to your child. The sores will likely go away in about 2 to 4 weeks. It may take longer in severe cases. The sores may come back. Medicine to reduce pain and inflammation may be given. Depending on the cause, your child may be given antiviral or antibiotic medicines

Home care

Your child’s healthcare provider may prescribe medicines for swelling, pain, and itching. Follow all instructions for giving these to your child.

General care

  • Let your child rest as needed.

  • Clean the sores as advised by the healthcare provider.

  • Ask your child’s healthcare provider if you can use colloidal oatmeal baths, wet compresses, or unscented lotion to ease your child’s discomfort. You can use a clean, damp washcloth as a wet compress.

  • Wash your hands with soap and clean running water before and after caring for your child. This is to prevent infecting the sores.

  • You can give your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen to ease fever or pain. Don't give aspirin to children. It can cause a serious illness called Reye syndrome.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your child’s healthcare provider, or as advised.

Special note to parents

The sores are not dangerous. Your child is not contagious. Make sure to tell family, friends, and caregivers that contact with your child is safe.

When to seek medical advice

Call your child's healthcare provider or seek medical attention right away if any of these occur: 

  • Lack of interest in feeding or drinking in a baby or young child

  • The rash spreads to the eyes, mouth, or genitals.

  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your child's healthcare provider

  • Sores that don’t go away after 6 weeks

  • Vomiting or diarrhea

  • Redness or swelling that gets worse

  • Pain that gets worse

  • Foul-smelling fluid leaking from the sores

  • Sores that come back after going away

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