Drug Eruptions in Babies and Children – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Drug eruptions in babies and children

It often happens in babies and children that a drug rash appears on the body after taking a drug . That’s not necessarily something to worry about. It could be a drug eruption in the baby and child . Nevertheless, the pediatrician should take an expert look at it.

What is a drug eruption?

A drug eruption is one of the drug allergies . After administration of a drug, the immune system reacts to one or more active ingredients of a drug. In drug eruptions, a red, inflammatory, blister-like or wheal-like skin rash appears on some parts of the body and can also spread to the whole body.

In addition to a drug eruption, other allergic reactions are also possible, e.g. B. diarrhea, vomiting, swelling of the mucous membranes in the mouth and throat, sometimes fever, especially in babies and small children.

The reaction does not even have to be related to the active substance itself. Because a drug contains many ingredients, such as fillers, coloring and flavorings, stabilizers, preservatives, etc., drug eruptions can also be a reaction to any of these substances. One of the most well-known drug allergies is penicillin allergy . More information on this under: Penicillin .


A drug eruption always occurs as an allergic reaction of the immune system to one or more components of drugs. The inflammatory rash can appear shortly after the drug is administered, but it can also appear a few days later.

Drug eruptions are more common with topical medications. Drugs that often trigger a drug eruption include antibiotics , antifungal drugs , rheumatism drugs , cardiovascular drugs. Local anesthetics , among other things, can trigger a drug eruption.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

A drug eruption in babies and children is usually noticeable through redness and swelling. These often appear on the face, but can occur on any part of the body. The redness and swelling vary in size and texture. A drug eruption can be small and pointy, but it can also cause large, raised swellings.

Such an exanthem does not necessarily have to cause symptoms. Depending on the affected part of the body, the exanthema is then discovered more or less by accident. However, many drug eruptions in babies and children cause itching . Scratching the affected parts of the body usually aggravates these symptoms. Itching is annoying and can be so distressing, especially for babies and children, that medication is needed.

In addition to the itching, the drug eruption can also trigger such swelling that severe discomfort up to and including shortness of breath occurs. Accordingly, such signs and external symptoms of a rash must be clarified promptly by a doctor as to whether it is an exanthema that does not require treatment or a severe allergic reaction to a drug. Swelling can be so pronounced that severe shortness of breath or even suffocation occurs, which must be stopped immediately with appropriate medication.

Diagnosis & History

If a drug eruption is suspected in children, the doctor will first stop the drug to find out whether the drug eruption was caused by this drug. If the rash goes away after that, the drug eruption diagnosis is secure.

It becomes difficult when several drugs are prescribed and administered at the same time, which is not the case with babies and children, so that a drug eruption can be diagnosed relatively quickly.

A drug eruption occurs, especially in babies and children, usually very quickly after a drug has been prescribed. If an inflammatory drug eruption develops in some parts of the body or all over the body immediately or within a few days after ingestion or local administration, it is reasonable to suspect that a drug eruption is present.

After stopping the drug, the drug eruption usually resolves within a few days. If the allergy is more severe, it may also take a few weeks for the drug eruption to go away.

If you as a mother or father are not quite sure and the pediatrician can not make a clear diagnosis, you should take the child to a dermatologist and take all the remedies or medication that are administered with you.

skin prick test , as used for other allergies, is only of limited use for drug eruptions because it cannot detect all drug allergies, mainly only antibiotics , antiphlogistics and cortisone . For a baby and toddler it would be an agonizing procedure that would be avoided anyway.


As a rule, a drug eruption in babies and children is not a particularly worrying complaint and does not always have to be treated. However, parents should always have the symptoms examined by a doctor to prevent possible consequential damage. The child suffers from severe reddening of the skin and a rash.

This can also itch. Parents should definitely forbid scratching. It is not uncommon for babies and children to have diarrhea and vomiting as well as a general feeling of illness as a result of drug eruptions. The throat and mouth can also become swollen, which can make it difficult to eat.

Most of the time, there are no further symptoms or complications after stopping the medication. The symptoms then disappear on their own after a few days. However, a doctor should always be consulted before drugs are discontinued or exchanged for others.

If the rash is itchy and bothers the child greatly, antihistamines can be given to relieve symptoms. There are no other complaints either. The development of the child is not affected by the disease.

When should you go to the doctor?

Drug eruptions in babies and children are not uncommon reactions to a specific drug. They are described in particular when taking antibiotics. If the exanthema is locally limited and painless and the child is otherwise symptom-free, an exanthem is not necessarily a reason to see a doctor.

The situation is different with a very pronounced exanthema. This should be clarified by a pediatrician. A widespread, supposed exanthema can also be a symptom of another disease, such as measles, rubella or chickenpox.

Since these diseases can be serious without treatment and questions about the risk of infection must also be clarified, advice from a pediatrician makes sense. A severe rash that comes on very suddenly can also mark the beginning of a severe allergic reaction. This is also referred to as anaphylaxis. This can begin with a skin rash and spread to the entire organism up to circulatory failure.

Such allergic reactions can also occur with medicines. A severe exanthema coupled with symptoms such as itching, reddening of the skin or noticeable paleness, coughing and signs of shortness of breath can therefore be a medical emergency. A doctor should be consulted immediately or, in the case of very severe forms, an ambulance should be called.

Treatment & Therapy

The measure of choice for a drug eruption is always stopping the allergy-causing drug if it can be isolated as the trigger. After stopping the drug, the drug eruption usually resolves quite quickly.

If several drugs are given at the same time and the allergy-causing drug cannot be identified, the pediatrician or dermatologist has the option of treating the drug eruption with glucocorticoids or – if the skin rash causes excruciating itching – with antihistamines . Intensive medical observation and treatment is only indicated in the case of very severe allergic reactions.

Outlook & Forecast

Drug eruptions in babies and children have a good prognosis. The complaints are not regarded as independent illnesses but represent a reaction of the organism to the medication taken. As soon as the medication is discontinued, the skin changes in the baby and child recede. Complaints are completely healed within a few days. The child is then considered symptom-free and healed.

The affected skin areas can be supplied with ointments or creams to support this. These help the organism so that the skin can regenerate as quickly as possible and no scars form.

If complications arise, the healing process is longer. Normally, however, they do not change the very good prognosis of the drug eruption. The skin changes can lead to itching and as soon as this is given in to, there is a risk of open wounds. If the wound care is not sterile, germs and pathogens can get into the organism via the open parts of the body. There is a possibility that other diseases will develop that need to be treated.

Although the prognosis for a drug eruption in babies and children is extremely positive, the body can also react when another drug is administered. A recurrence of the drug eruption cannot therefore be ruled out. The prognosis for renewed symptoms is also very good.


A drug eruption cannot be prevented, since everyone could in principle react to any possible ingredient in a drug. If there is a family history of drug eruptions, e.g. B. on penicillin, it is advisable to inform the pediatrician about it. If a drug allergy is proven, it is entered in the medical record and in an allergy pass.


To be on the safe side, a drug eruption in a baby or child should always be shown to the doctor who prescribed the triggering drug. In itself, no consequences are to be expected from a drug eruption in babies and children. However, the triggering preparation should be replaced if necessary. It is an allergic reaction to one of the active ingredients or the excipients contained.

In such reactions, other allergic symptoms can appear in addition to the exanthema. Some of these can be very threatening. Therefore, in the follow-up care of the acute incident, it must be found out what triggered the drug eruption in the baby and child. This substance should then be avoided.

In most cases, however, it is difficult to even determine which ingredient caused these consequences. Small children should not necessarily be subjected to a skin prick test. Itching, redness, and swelling can potentially occur from any of the ingredients in a medication. A drug eruption in babies and children therefore requires long-term observation of the child.

Parents are encouraged to monitor other unusual reactions to certain substances in order to narrow down the circle of potential culprits. Depending on how pronounced and serious the first drug eruption was in the baby or child, the doctor treating you may suggest further measures.

You can do that yourself

Although the cause of a drug eruption in babies and children is a drug allergy, this rash is mostly harmless in nature. If the exanthema is localized and the child is symptom-free, the preparation can continue to be given under close observation of the relevant skin area.

However, if a drug eruption spreads quickly and is also very itchy, this is always an indication of a serious allergic reaction . In this case, the drug is discontinued immediately and the affected skin areas are covered with cooling saline compresses or anti-itch lotions. The attending physician must be consulted within the next one to two hours. If this person is not available, the correct address is the emergency room of the nearest clinic.

If the rash starts only a short time after taking a drug and is accompanied by fever , diarrhea and vomiting or even swelling of the mucous membranes in the mouth and throat, there may be an acute danger to life. Only the emergency doctor called can decide on further therapy. This ranges from treatment with antihistamines and cortisone to intensive medical care.

Parents are best guided by the following guidelines: The younger the child and the more directly the drug eruption is related to the administration of medication, the faster immediate medical help is indicated.

Lisa Newlon
 | Website

Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.