Acrodermatitis and Your Child
Acrodermatitis, or Gianotti-Crosti syndrome, is a common skin condition in children. Learn about its symptoms, causes, and treatment.
Top of page
What Is Acrodermatitis?
Acrodermatitis, or Gianotti-Crosti syndrome, is a common skin
condition that typically affects children between the ages of 3 months and 15
years. The full name of the disease is “papular acrodermatitis of childhood.”
Acrodermatitis causes itchy, red or purple blisters to form on
the body. Children may also develop a bloated abdomen, a fever, and swollen,
sore lymph nodes. Although acrodermatitis itself isn’t contagious, the viruses
that cause it are contagious. This means children who regularly interact with
one another may contract a virus and develop acrodermatitis at the same time. Acrodermatitis
may also occur in the siblings of children who have been previously afflicted
with the condition. This can sometimes occur up to a year after the appearance
of the original case. It’s believed that children who had the disease still
carry it even after all of its symptoms have passed.
Acrodermatitis is most common in the spring and summer, typically
lasting for four to eight weeks. It usually resolves without needing treatment
or causing complications.
What Are the Symptoms of Acrodermatitis?
Over the course of three to four days, red spots will develop on your
child’s skin. These spots can develop anywhere on the body, but they’re most
commonly seen on the arms, thighs, and buttocks. In most cases, the spots
gradually move upward toward the face. As the condition progresses, the red
spots may begin to appear purple. This often occurs once the capillaries, or
small blood vessels, start to leak blood into the affected areas. These spots
will eventually develop into itchy blisters filled with fluid.
Your child may also experience swelling and tenderness in the
abdomen and lymph nodes. These symptoms can last anywhere between two and three
A copper-colored patch of skin can also be a sign of
acrodermatitis. The patch will likely be flat and feel firm to the touch. If
hepatitis B is the underlying cause of acrodermatitis, there may be a yellow
tint to your child’s skin and eyes. This is a symptom of jaundice. Jaundice
will usually appear within 20 days after the onset of symptoms.
What Causes Acrodermatitis?
While the overall incidence of childhood acrodermatitis is
unknown, it’s considered a relatively mild condition. However, several acrodermatitis
epidemics have been reported over the years. Experts believe these epidemics
were caused by viral
infections, which can trigger acrodermatitis in children. In the United States,
the virus most frequently associated with childhood acrodermatitis is the Epstein-Barr
virus (EBV). This is a member of the herpes virus family and one of the
most common viruses to affect people around the world. It’s spread through
bodily fluids, particularly saliva.
Though EBV is a common cause of acrodermatitis in children,
several other types of infections can also lead to the development of the condition,
- hepatitis A, B, and C
- cytomegalovirus, which is a common virus that
usually doesn’t cause symptoms
- enterovirus, which is a common virus that can
cause cold-like symptoms and a severe respiratory infection
- rotavirus, which is a common virus that causes
diarrhea in infants
- rubella, which is a viral infection that causes
- coxsackie virus, which is a mild viral infection
that causes mouth sores and rashes in young children
- parainfluenza viruses, which is a group of
viruses that cause respiratory illnesses in infants and young children
- respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which is a
common virus that causes mild, cold-like symptoms in older children and adults but
can be harmful to infants and young children
In very rare cases, vaccines for certain viral diseases may cause
- hepatitis A
- small pox
- chicken pox
How Is Acrodermatitis Diagnosed?
Your child’s doctor may be able to diagnose acrodermatitis simply
by looking at your child’s skin and asking about their symptoms. They may also
run some tests to help reach a diagnosis. Some of these tests include:
- a blood or urine test to assess bilirubin levels,
which can indicate the presence of hepatitis
- a blood test to check for abnormal liver enzymes,
which can be a sign of hepatitis
- a blood test to look for the presence of EBV
antibodies, which can mean an EBV infection is present
- a skin biopsy, or the removal of a small sample
of skin, to check for other skin conditions that may present as a rash, such as
ringworm or eczema
- a blood test to determine zinc levels and to rule
out genetic acrodermatitis enteropathica, which is a rare form of
How Is Acrodermatitis Treated?
Acrodermatitis itself doesn’t require treatment, and the
condition usually goes away on its own without causing any complications.
However, the doctor will seek out the underlying cause and focus any treatment on
eradicating that particular condition.
The symptoms of acrodermatitis typically subside about four to eight
weeks after they start. However, they may last as long as four months. In the
meantime, hydrocortisone creams can be used to relieve itching. Antihistamines
may also be prescribed if your child has allergies.
If hepatitis B is found to be the cause of acrodermatitis, it can
take anywhere between six months to a year for their liver to recover. It’s
unlikely that they’ll get acrodermatitis again.
Contact your child’s doctor right away if your child shows any of
the symptoms of acrodermatitis. It’s important that the cause of your child’s
condition be treated as soon as possible. Once they receive treatment, the symptoms
will subside and your child can recover without experiencing any complications
or long-term effects.
How Can Acrodermatitis Be Prevented?
Since acrodermatitis appears to be caused
by viruses, the only way to prevent it is to avoid getting a viral infection.
Make sure your child washes their hands regularly and avoids contact with anyone
who is sick. If your child starts to display symptoms of the illness, take them
to the doctor for treatment as soon as possible.
Carmella Wint, Matthew Solan, and Erica Cirino
Medically Reviewed by:
Jul 25, 2012
Published By: Healthline Networks, Inc.