Psoriasis is a disease that causes itchy, dry patches on your skin. Up to 40% of people with psoriasis have symptoms before they are 16 years old, and 10% get it before they are 10.
Children can have mild, moderate, or severe psoriasis. It is a lifelong condition with no cure, but you can treat the symptoms with medication. Most pediatric cases of psoriasis are mild and get better with treatment.
Psoriasis is not contagious. Often, a bacterial infection like strep throat triggers psoriasis for the first time in children. Other kids get certain genes from their parents that make them more likely to get it.
Things that raise a child’s risk of getting the disease also include:
- Cold weather
- Cuts, rashes, scratches, or sunburn on the skin
- Medications such as beta blockers, lithium, or malaria drugs
- Cold weather
Types of Psoriasis in Children
There are five types of psoriasis, but some are much more common in children than others. The two types children are most likely to get are:
Guttate psoriasis. This kind of psoriasis is also called “drop-like” psoriasis. It causes little red dots to form on the arms, back, chest, and legs. Strep infection most likely triggers this. Many children who get this type of psoriasis also develop plaque psoriasis.
Plaque psoriasis. Most kids who have psoriasis have this type. It causes red, dry patches called plaques. It can also cause silvery scales, which usually show up on elbows, knees, lower back, and the scalp. They are itchy, red, and sometimes painful. They can also bleed. Plaque psoriasis patches are smaller, thinner, and less scaly in children than in adults.
Children under two years can get psoriatic diaper rash. It happens on the skin that’s covered up by the diaper. It may show up like plaque psoriasis, or it may cause a bright red, weeping rash. You can tell the difference between psoriatic diaper rash and regular diaper rash. Psoriatic diaper rash does not get better with regular diaper rash treatment.
A dermatologist can usually tell it is psoriasis just by looking at your child’s nails, scalp, or skin. To be sure, they might also remove a small sample of skin and send it to a lab for a closer look. They will also ask questions about your family history and habits to see how many risk factors your child has.
Your child’s doctor is likely to recommend an antihistamine to help with itching. Keeping the skin moisturized is important, too. They may suggest the use of petroleum jelly to lock in moisture. Moreover, salicylic acid may also be an option for thick plaques, but you should not use it on children under six years old.
Other options may include:
Topical treatments. Most children who have mild psoriasis heal with cream, lotion, or ointment. Topical treatments include anthralin, calcipotriene, coal tar, and corticosteroids.
Phototherapy. Your child’s doctor might choose this option if plaques are on most of your child’s body. However, the doctor will likely try a topical treatment first before recommending therapy.
Oral medications. Your child’s doctor will recommend medicine to take by mouth or by shot only if the psoriasis is severe. Many of the ones doctors use for adults are not as safe in children and have serious side effects.