What are Skin Infections

Skin infections are conditions in which harmful microorganisms, such as bacteria, fungi, or viruses, invade and multiply on the skin, causing redness, inflammation, and sometimes pus formation. Skin infections in children can range from mild to severe, depending on the type of infection and the overall health of the child.

Skin infections in children are relatively common due to their developing immune systems and frequent exposure to other children.

Symptoms of Skin Infections in Children

The symptoms of skin infections in children can vary depending on the type and severity of the infection. However, some common symptoms to watch for include:

  • Redness, swelling, or warmth at the site of the infection
  • Blisters, pustules, or crusts on the skin
  • Itching, burning, or pain
  • Fever, chills, or general malaise
  • Enlarged or tender lymph nodes near the infection site
  • A rash that spreads or worsens over time

Types of Skin Infections in Children

Skin infections can be classified into four main categories: bacterial, fungal, viral, and parasitic. Each type of infection has its unique characteristics and requires different treatment approaches.

These infections can range from mild to severe and may include impetigo, cellulitis, and folliculitis.

  • Impetigo: Characterised by honey-coloured crusts and blisters on the skin, usually around the nose and mouth. Impetigo is more common in young children, particularly those who attend daycare or school.
  • Cellulitis: Occurs when bacteria infect the deeper layers of the skin and underlying tissue. Symptoms include redness, warmth, swelling, and sometimes fever and chills. Cellulitis can be dangerous if left untreated, as the infection can spread to other parts of the body.
  • Folliculitis: Affects hair follicles and is characterised by red, swollen bumps that may contain pus. It is more common in children who have recently been in hot tubs or pools with poor water quality.

These are caused by fungi, which thrive in warm, moist environments. Common fungal infections include tinea (ringworm) and candidiasis.

  • Tinea: This infection, also known as ringworm, is characterized by circular, red, and itchy rashes with raised scaly borders. Tinea can affect various parts of the body, such as the scalp (tinea capitis), body (tinea corporis), and feet (tinea pedis).
  • Candidiasis: This infection, caused by the yeast Candida, can affect the skin, mouth, or genitals. Candidiasis is more common in infants and children with weakened immune systems or who have recently taken antibiotics.

Caused by viruses such as:

  • Warts: Small, rough growths are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) and can appear on various parts of the body. Warts are usually harmless and often disappear on their own, but they can be contagious.
  • Molluscum contagiosum: Small, painless bumps on the skin that can be itchy and spread easily through skin-to-skin contact. Molluscum contagiosum is more common in children with weakened immune systems.
  • Herpes infections: Herpes simplex virus (HSV) can cause cold sores and genital herpes. While these infections are more common in adults, children can contract them through direct contact with an infected person.

Parasitic skin infections in children are caused by parasites, such as scabies and head lice.

  • Scabies: Caused by microscopic mites which burrow into the skin, causing intense itching and a rash. Scabies is highly contagious and can spread easily among family members and close contacts.
  • Head lice: These tiny insects infest the hair and scalp, causing itching, redness, and sometimes sores. Head lice are common in school-aged children and can be easily transmitted through shared combs, brushes, hats, and headphones.

Causes of Skin Infections in Children

There are several factors that can contribute to the development of skin infections in children, including:

  • Exposure to bacteria, fungi, viruses, or parasites through skin-to-skin contact, contaminated surfaces, or shared personal items.
  • A weakened immune system due to illness, medications, or underlying health conditions.
  • Skin injuries, such as cuts, scrapes, or burns, that can serve as entry points for infections.
  • Poor hygiene, such as infrequent hand washing or not bathing regularly.
  • Living in crowded or unsanitary conditions, such as daycare centres or homeless shelters.
  • Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes or eczema, can weaken the skin’s protective barrier and increase the risk of infection.

While some of these risk factors are beyond your control, there are steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of your child developing a skin infection.

Treatment options for Skin Infections in Children

Treatment for skin infections in children may include:

  • Topical or oral antibiotics to kill bacterial infections
  • Antifungal creams or oral medications to treat fungal infections
  • Antiviral medications to treat viral infections
  • Prescription-strength creams or lotions to treat parasitic infections
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers to manage pain and discomfort

In some cases, skin infections may require hospitalisation, particularly if the infection is severe, widespread, or affecting vital organs. In these cases, your child may receive intravenous antibiotics or other treatments to manage the infection.

When to seek medical help for Skin Infections in Children

If you suspect that your child has a skin infection, seek medical attention promptly. Some signs that your child may need medical help include:

  • A fever of 38°C or higher.
  • Pain or discomfort that does not improve with over-the-counter medications.
  • Signs of spreading infection, such as red streaks on the skin or increasing swelling.
  • Signs of dehydration, such as dry mouth, decreased urine output, or lethargy.
  • Signs of a severe allergic reaction, such as difficulty breathing or swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Diagnosing Skin Infections in Children

A physical examination and a sample of the affected skin for laboratory analysis may be taken to determine the specific type of infection. However, in some cases, additional tests may be necessary, such as a blood test or imaging studies, to rule out underlying medical conditions that may be contributing to the infection.

Billing & Insurance

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You can use your Integrated Shield Plans to pay for certain procedures. Speak to us to learn more, and you’ll be surprised at how affordable private healthcare can be. 

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We are dedicated to your skin health and well-being. Our results-oriented approach is suitable for a wide range of hair, skin and nail conditions. Consult our MOH-accredited dermatologist for a personalised treatment plan.


Personalised Treatment Plans


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Dr. Lee Hwee Chyen

Medical Director & Consultant Dermatologist

MBBS (S'pore) MRCP (UK) FAMS (Dermatology)

Special Interests In:
  • Paediatric Dermatology
  • Women’s Dermatology
  • Procedural Dermatology & Lasers

Dr. Lee Hwee Chyen is an accredited Adult & Paediatric dermatologist managing a wide range of skin, hair and nail conditions. The clinic provides services for medical, surgical, cosmetic, women’s and paediatric dermatology.

  • MBBS (National University of Singapore, Singapore)
  • MRCP (Royal College of Physicians, United Kingdom)
  • Specialist Accreditation Board, Dermatology (Singapore)
  • FAMS (Academy of Medicine of Singapore, Singapore)
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    Frequently Asked Questions

    Yes, skin infections in children can be life-threatening if left untreated or if the infection is severe. Seek medical attention if the situation does not improve or continues to worsen.

    Recovery time depends on the type and severity of the infection. Generally, mild skin infections may take a few days to heal with topical medications, while more severe infections may require oral or intravenous antibiotics and could take several weeks to fully resolve. In some cases, the infection may require hospitalisation and more intensive treatments.

    Generally, these can be highly contagious, especially amongst young children who are frequently in close contact with each other. Once the infection has occurred, some general measures include keeping the affected area clean and dry to prevent the spread of infection, as well as practising good hand hygiene and avoiding contact with others who may have been exposed.