Q: My baby, 14 months old, has red bumps under his clothes that looked like bug bites. What could they be?
A: Unfortunately, there are a few "bugs" that bite. Two that we can think of right away often bite young children -- fleas and scabies.
If you have a cat or dog that spends time inside, the fleas that feast on your pet may also be biting your son. Fleas often infest the carpet and may even bite adults around the ankles. Your son is much closer to the carpet and may get more widely spread flea bites. A flea bite often has a tiny puncture mark in the center. If fleas are the problem, you'll need to treat your pet and carpet to prevent future bites.
Scabies are mites that burrow into the skin. They cause intensely itchy red bumps that are typically found on body areas covered by clothing. The bumps may be grouped together in short rows rather than widely scattered. Scabies spread from person to person, and your son could easily have acquired them without your knowing of an exposure. If scabies are causing your son's bumps, you will need a potent lotion prescribed by your doctor.
It may be that the red bumps are not bites at all. Some viral infections cause rashes, even though other symptoms are mild. And children, like adults, can get hives with their cause often remaining mysterious. If the red bumps persist or if new ones keep appearing, your doctor will be able to analyze them.
Dr. Wilson is director of general pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center; Dr. Joffe is director of adolescent medicine.