Any ideas on my kid's red cheek problem?
December 12, 2011 9:05 AM   Subscribe

I have a red cheeked preschooler. Trying to talk to doc, but wanted thoughts from others.

I've called our ped's office and haven't gotten answers, so I turn to MeFi for thoughts on avenues to explore.

My 3-year-old's cheeks turn red easily and the red rash is a little bumpy. It is enough that pretty much every day in winter, SOMEONE comments on his red cheeks. (This morning the school security guard said "it must be really cold out there - your cheeks are so red!") And for our holiday photos, the photographer had to touch up all the photos to reduce the red.

This happens when:
- Immediately upon being outside if under 50 degrees and/or wind blowing. Colder weather -> more redness in cheeks.
- When he's too hot (layers of clothes or wrapped up in too many blankets).
- After running around or dancing.
- After eating sometimes (but I haven't yet gotten into keeping good track of when this happens - but certainly when there is something new in the mix).
- When he has a fever/is sick it shows first in his cheeks.

He does have sensitive skin generally and we use all sensitive skin products on him.

I also have sensitive skin (especially reactions to chemical-y detergents/soaps/makeup), am very sensitive to cold, and have some food sensitivities that displays on my skin (like lips and face turning red when I drink red wine).

Photos -- I don't have pictures from when it is the worst, but to give you a sense:
Eating new things on Thanksgiving - hadn't been outside in hours.
Horsing around/roughhousing, hadn't been outside in hours.
This is in 50-something degrees.
Another 50-something degrees.
Another 50-something degrees.
This is in 40-something degrees.
Really cold outside.

Any ideas on what to be watching for and/or how to proceed with the doctor? I know that this isn't that big of a deal on the surface, but if this is part of some other health issue, I want to be able to follow up.
posted by k8t to Health & Fitness (16 answers total)
That looks like a completely normal (and adorable) amount of rosyness. Is there any irritation? Is it sore, or itchy?
I am not a doctor, but I am someone whose cheeks go much redder than that under similar circumstances and most of my wintertime outdoor photos from when I was his age show me far, far redder than that in the cheek area - and I don't even have especially sensitive skin. I am sure it's absolutely fine. I wouldn't make a special appointment with the doctor - just bring it up the next time you're there for a check up or for another issue.

Also, if that is you in the first picture, you look just like Toni Collette!
posted by cilantro at 9:19 AM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

It looks as if it could be rosacea but IANAD and I certainly am not a dermatologist, let alone a pediatric dermatologist. Most skin problems look the same to me. I would just think he has rosy cheeks. I am particularly reluctant to suggest anything to a mother about her child--worry runs rampant. BTW, what a cutie. Rosacea is an essentially benign condition--see a dermatologist and put your mind at rest. I know you are going to look at images do the internet--do so after doing the reading.
posted by rmhsinc at 9:25 AM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

That's my cousin in the first picture. :)

No soreness, itchiness... but they are much redder than any of the other kids.
posted by k8t at 9:27 AM on December 12, 2011

That looks like a completely normal (and adorable) amount of rosyness

I would guess that it looks much worse in person. I have rosacea and when I try to photograph, even in extreme close up you can't barely see anything (but its not just my imagination that my skin is noticeably red). Lots of people have the same problem, particularly with flash photography. The OP also says the rash is bumpy so I wouldn't just dismiss it as normal roseyness.

Honestly k8t there are so many things it could be, you really do just need to see your dr about it. To me it sounds very much like rosacea (and like you might have it to) but I'm obviously biased and its extremely rare in children, and much rarer in males than females.
posted by missmagenta at 9:29 AM on December 12, 2011

My son had this condition around the same age and has since outgrown it (he's 11 now). I was looking at old pictures the other day and was shocked at how red he was, constantly. Memory is a bit fuzzy, but I think we used a hydrocortisone cream on patches that got particularly irritated, kept baths short and not too hot, and used mild cleansers.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 9:35 AM on December 12, 2011

I have a red-cheecked toddler. He gets those rosy cheeks in the winter time with the bumps. Our ped has told us repeatedly that it is dermatitis as a result of the drooling and the cold weather. Yours may be out of the drooling stage, so that might not be the cause. We put Aquaphor Baby on his cheeks and that seems to really help.

I too get red-cheeked in the cold weather. It's just how my skin reacts and I think he has inherited my skin type (but Daddy's impervious tolerance to cold).
posted by Leezie at 9:37 AM on December 12, 2011

My son got a red bumpy rash on his face in the cold last year that flared up more every time we went out in the cold. Turns out it was just sensitivity to the cold and dry skin, we got aquaphor lotion and slathered it on him before going out every morning and it cleared up fairly swiftly. We are working on keeping it from appearing this year by putting some on on colder days, and being more quick to put it on the red stuff that does appear.
posted by katers890 at 9:40 AM on December 12, 2011

I doubt that a child that young has rosacea. (You may have the early signs of rosacea, given that you seem to flush around common rosacea triggers, but your general colour looks fine and you don't look rosy at all in the pictures of you and your very cute son.)

Those red cheeks and a little bumpiness may be KPRF (Keratosis Pilaris Rubra Faceii). It's pretty common in kids, is treatable, and they often grow out of it. And even if they don't, the red cheeks are pretty damn cute!

Ask your dermatologist and see what they advise.
posted by maudlin at 9:40 AM on December 12, 2011

We have a red-cheeked toddler, too. Her dry, red rashiness definitely amps up when she is sick. We apply Aquaphor to her face 4-5+ times a day and that seems to help. We think it might be eczema. We also use hydrocortisone when it gets really bad. Make sure his bath soap doesn't have fragrances or other stuff that might aggravate it.
posted by gnutron at 9:58 AM on December 12, 2011

I'll nth the recommendations to try Aquaphor, if you have not already, to treat/prevent the outdoor omg-bumpy-red cheeks. It works on all of my little ones.

Anecdotally, for the rosiness that occurs when trying new foods, one of my little ones has extremely sensitive skin. We joke that if you look at him hard, he gets a red spot. He will often get red around the mouth, and get some scattered blotchiness all over, when he eats some foods (cinnamon and the like). Our doctor told us to keep an eye on it, but to not panic unless it becomes an increasingly intense reaction, clearly forms hives, or there swelling of his mouth.
posted by wg at 10:08 AM on December 12, 2011


He's fair skinned, so he'll look flushed under any conditions that increase blood flow to the skin -- exercise, irritation/inflammation. Use Aquaphor as a protective barrier if it bothers him/you.

He's very cute
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:10 AM on December 12, 2011

IANAD, but what you mention sounds like rosacea in adults; I have no idea about children, but might be worth looking into (for you too!). Just to put your mind at ease, if it is rosacea, it's basically benign/cosmetic, and very treatable.
posted by UniversityNomad at 10:46 AM on December 12, 2011

IANYD: I've got rosacea and it makes just about any front-on picture of my face worthless, especially after a few drinks. Its really, REALLY red. I was taking doxycycline for it but... I didn't really think it was that bad of a problem (no pain, itchiness, etc, just the red).
posted by Slackermagee at 11:58 AM on December 12, 2011

My toddler's cheeks get that flushed too; sometimes I pick him up from nursery school and I for a second think he has a fever because he's so flushed and hot from playing. But he just has very delicate, pale skin.

Combined with an irritant -- drool, garlicy hummus, very cold dry air -- he will get bumps too, and Aquaphor is what we use too. It doesn't really bother him (neither the rashy bumps nor the lotion).

I also get nearly that flushed from exertion. Same very pale skin. It's nothing but paleness and flushing on me. Many of my cousins have the same thing.

People do comment on it a lot, which mostly I just smile at since people have been saying the same things to me too for as long as I can remember. One nosy nellie decided to give me what-for about my kid getting "sunburned" and I got up in her face about it being a "rash." ("He flushes easily and wears hats and/or SPF a zillion sunblock" seemed a little too complicated for face-up-in-getting.) But yeah, people just say stuff. I wouldn't take it very seriously.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:23 PM on December 12, 2011

Uniikely to be rosacea. Aquaphor was what we used on our one son who had the really rosy cheeks. Looks totally normal. He grew out of it by middle school.
posted by mmf at 12:24 PM on December 12, 2011

Thanks all. Ordered some Aquafor (a new one that has not also been used on kids' butts or with adult potentially dirty fingers in it).

Thanks again!
posted by k8t at 2:08 PM on December 12, 2011

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