Peeling skin in toddlers might look unsightly, but is rarely a sign of a serious medical problem. Toddlers with peeling skin might experience additional symptoms including discomfort and itchiness, which might worsen during cold or dry weather. Fortunately, most cases of peeling skin in toddlers are preventable with lifestyle changes or treatable with medication.
Peeling skin in toddlers might occur anywhere on the body, although the most common locations include the scalp, elbows, hands and feet. In some cases, other symptoms might accompany the peeling skin, such as dryness, itching and redness of the affected area. According to the National Library of Medicine, children that pick at or scratch the area of peeling skin might develop sores, cracks or bleeding.
Parents might notice peeling skin on their toddlers when washing the child's hair, bathing or dressing the child. Pediatricians or dermatologists diagnose the cause of the peeling skin by conducting a physical exam of the child and asking parents questions about the onset of the peeling and any additional symptoms the child might have. Doctors might take a small scraping off the surface of the toddler's skin if a fungal infection is the suspected cause of peeling.
Peeling skin around the ears and scalp on toddlers often results from seborrheic dermatitis or eczema, which is worsened by winter weather, infrequent hair washing and use of lotions that contain alcohol. According to Kids Health, small areas of peeling skin on the soles of the feet usually result from athlete's foot, while small circular areas of peeling skin might result from ringworm; ringworm and athlete's foot are both caused by fungal infections.
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According to the National Library of Medicine, parents can usually treat sebhorreic dermatitis in toddlers at home by shampooing the child's hair daily and scrubbing the scalp for at least five minutes and brushing the child's hair several times daily. Doctors might prescribe corticosteroid or antibiotic ointments to treat affected areas. Toddlers with peeling skin resulting from athlete's foot are treated with antifungal creams.
Parents can help prevent peeling skin in toddlers by regularly bathing the child and using gentle shampoos and soaps on their delicate skin. In addition, parents might consider applying a moisturizing lotion to the child's skin after bath time and several times throughout the day. After bath time, pat the skin dry rather than rubbing, and dress the toddler in soft cotton clothing to help reduce itchiness and irritation. To help prevent fungal infections, parents should encourage toddlers to wear sandals or shoes and not touch the skin of other children with skin infections.
Jessica Lietz has been writing about health-related topics since 2009. She has several years of experience in genetics research, survey design, analysis and epidemiology, working on both infectious and chronic diseases. Lietz holds a Master of Public Health in epidemiology from The Ohio State University.