Baby Health

Why a Red Line Rash on a Child is a Major Red Flag

Little bumps, bruises, bites, spots, and rashes are part of childhood. However, if you notice your child has a red line rash, then this could be a sign of a medical emergency called lymphangitis. 

Lymphangitis is a sign there is inflammation in the lymphatic vessels. It is often a sign of bacterial infection but can also be caused by other more common things like bug bites and viruses

Why we need to watch out for a red line rash 

The infected area may start out small but will start to move in a linear direction. The red streak is a sign that the infection has entered the lymph glands and that it’s getting worse. If you notice a red streak or a red line rash, you need to see a doctor ASAP. 

red line rash a sign of something serious
Source: Tiny Hearts Education

Child safety and first aid organisers, Tiny Hearts Education shared a photo of a child impacted by lymphangitis. What’s especially scary about it is how you can see that the affected area most likely started at his toe. We’re unsure if this was an insect bite or something else, but the mum shared that she immediately knew something was wrong because she had seen a previous post about this condition on Tiny Hearts Education’s Instagram. 

Another mum commented on the post, addressing how that previous post about lymphangitis may have also saved her daughter’s life. 

Seeing a previous post on this potentially saved our daughter’s life just a few weeks ago,” she wrote. “She had a fairly unremarkable sore on the top of her foot that got inflamed over a period of 24hrs.

We marked the area, then noticed the red streaks travelling up her leg towards her groin, which happened fairly quickly. I knew it wasn’t right. We took her to emergency and they diagnosed lymphangitis and cellulitis. She stayed in hospital for a period of 5 days on IV antibiotics.”

How lymphangitis develops

Any injury or wound that allows fungus, bacteria, or a virus to get into the body can cause an infection that affects the lymph system. This includes:

  • Severe or untreated skin infections, like cellulitis
  • Insect bites and stings
  • Puncture wounds that form as a result of stepping on sharp objects
  • Wounds that require stitching
  • Sporotrichosis, a fungal skin infection 

Children are often at risk because, let’s face it, they do experience bites, stings, and sores from the daily adventures of being a child. Playing in the dirt, taking a tumble that results in stitches and experiencing a painful sting from an unhappy insect is all part of the fun. 

The good news is that, if treated quickly, lymphangitis is considered mild with no side effects. It does take a good dose of antibiotics to kill it though. The scary news is that in left untreated or left too late, it can escalate incredibly quickly and lead to sepsis – a blood infection that can be fatal. 

What to watch for

Tiny Hearts Education suggests that, if your child does have a minor red rash anywhere, keep an eye on it. 

“You can keep track of the spread of the redness by drawing a border around it so you can easily identify if it is getting worse.⁠” 

Other symptoms of lymphangitis, apart from the red streak include:

  • Feeling sick or weak
  • A wound that’s taking a long time to heal
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Feelings of fatigue
  • Swelling near the armpits or groin

Many parents are not aware of lymphangitis. When it comes to little bites and spots on our children, we are often told to take a “wait and see” approach.

“It’s probably just heat rash.”
“It looks like a little spider bite.”
“It’s most likely nothing.”  

Yes, children get bitten. They develop heat rash and they often end up with little ouchies that even they aren’t sure where they came from. But as parents, we need to be aware of the warning signs that a minor injury isn’t becoming something major. 

Trust your instincts and, if ever in doubt or concerned, seek medical assistance. ⁠

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Avatar of Jenna Galley

Born and raised in Canada, Jenna now lives in Far North Queensland with her tribe. When the mum-of-three is not writing, you can find her floating in the pool, watching princess movies, frolicking on the beach, bouncing her baby to sleep or nagging her older kids to put on their pants.

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