Acrodermatitis: Recognizing the Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Picture of Acrodermatitis


Acrodermatitis is a skin condition that typically affects children between the ages of 6 months and 12 years. The full name of the disease is papular acrodermatitis of childhood. It is also called Gianotti-Crosti syndrome. Although rare, children who live with (or near) each other can have the disease at the same time. The condition causes fever, fatigue, and itchy red and purple blisters to form on the body.

What Causes Acrodermatitis?

The exact cause of acrodermatitis is unknown, although it is linked to a variety of viruses around the world. Epstein-Barr is the most common virus associated with acrodermatitis in America. Others like cytomegalovirus, parainfluenza, and respiratory syncytial viruses are also thought to contribute to the disease.

Recognizing the Symptoms of Acrodermatitis

Over the course of three to four days red spots will erupt on the child’s skin. These spots can develop anywhere on the body but are most commonly seen on the arms, thighs, and buttocks. The disease usually begins in the legs and moves upward toward the face. As the condition progresses, the red spots on the legs may begin to appear purple. This means small capillaries are leaking blood into the affected areas. These spots will develop into itchy blisters filled with fluid.

There may have swelling and tenderness in the abdomen and lymph nodes. These symptoms can last anywhere between two and three months.

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 cause of the acrodermatitis there may be a yellow tint to the skin and eyes. This is a sign of jaundice. Jaundice will usually appear within 20 days of the first sign of symptoms.

Acrodermatitis has also appeared in siblings of children previously afflicted with the condition, sometimes up to a year after the appearance of the original case. It is believed that children who had the disease still carry it even after all signs of the condition have passed. In a few cases, children with Down’s syndrome have shown a slightly higher risk for developing acrodermatitis than other children.

How is Acrodermatitis Diagnosed?

A doctor may be able to diagnose acrodermatitis simply by looking at the rash and asking about symptoms. It is likely the doctor will run some tests to help reach a diagnosis. Liver function tests along with tests for the presence of viruses may also be ordered. Because hepatitis B is a potential cause of acrodermatitis, the doctor will likely check for that as well. A skin biopsy may be necessary as well as a test of the child’s zinc levels to rule out the more rare form of acrodermatitis. This is called genetic acrodermatitis enteropathica.

Treatment for Acrodermatitis

Acrodermatitis itself does not require treatment and the condition usually goes away on its own without any complications. However, the doctor will seek out the underlying cause and focus any treatment in that direction. Hydrocortisone creams can be used to relieve itching. Likewise, if the child has allergies, antihistamines may be prescribed. Eruptions of acrodermatitis on the skin typically go away on their own about four to five weeks after the initial eruption. However, they may last as long as four months.

If hepatitis B is found to be the cause of the child’s acrodermatitis, it can take anywhere between six months to a year for the liver to recover. Recurrence of acrodermatitis is unlikely.

If your child exhibits any of the symptoms of papular acrodermatitis of childhood it is important that you seek out medical attention as soon as possible. It is important that the cause of your child’s condition be treated. However, after treatments are complete there are usually no long-term effects.