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Skin breakdown is a major concern for children with cerebral palsy and symptoms associated with the disorder can lead to ulcers, infections, rashes, and many other integumentary issues. Great care should be taken to keep skin integrity intact for these children, and early signs of breakdown or infection should be monitored closely.
What Are Infectious Skin Conditions?
Children with cerebral palsy run the risk of developing infectious skin diseases, which are defined as skin conditions that can be spread to other people. There are four main types of infectious skin conditions, which include:
Viral Skin Conditions
Viral skin conditions occur when there is an infection inside the body that presents as lesions or color changes in the skin.  These can often be contagious but are also typically self-limiting. Avoiding close contact with others and good handwashing while experiencing a viral rash will help reduce the risk of spreading the infection to others.
Bacterial Skin Conditions
Any break in the skin may become prone to harboring bacteria. Surgical incisions, insect bites, pressure ulcers, and any other areas of impaired skin integrity are at risk for developing a bacterial infection. 
Keeping open skin clean and dry, covered, and avoiding picking or touching lesions will help prevent infection from occurring. Redness, swelling, pain, or lesions may all be signs of a developing bacterial skin infection. Some, but not all, bacterial skin infections are contagious.
Parasitic Skin Conditions
Dust mites, fleas, head lice, and other types of parasites can cause parasitic skin conditions. Parasites can also live in the child’s hair, skin, and/or in the gastrointestinal tract. Itching, rash, and small bite marks may indicate a parasitic skin infection.  These are often highly contagious.
What are Non-infectious Skin Conditions?
Non-infectious skin conditions are skin problems that cannot be passed on or transmitted to another person.
This type of infection typically occur from excess moisture (such as from drooling and bowel/bladder incontinence), poor mobility (pressure ulcers form over bony prominences when a position is not changed regularly), and tearing (such as during position changes, transfers from bed to chair, and exchanging soiled linens for fresh ones).
Are There Ways to Prevent My Child From Developing a Skin Condition?
There are numerous things you can do to help make sure your child has the least possible chances of developing skin conditions, whether infectious or non-infectious, which include:
- Make sure your child washes his/her hands often, especially after coughing, sneezing, using the bathroom, and before and after meals.
- Ensure that your child’s bedsheets and blankets are changed and cleaned regularly
- If your child uses adaptive equipment, be certain that the equipment is not only washed and dried regularly but also fitted properly
- Your child’s skin should always be kept clean and dry. Moisturizing is also important.
- Keep your child’s hair shampooed and cleaned regularly
- If your child wears diapers or any incontinence products, make sure that they are cleaned and changed in a timely manner
- Make sure your child’s circulation is healthy if he/she is not mobile
Treatment for Skin Conditions
In some instances, an over-the-counter medication may be recommended by your child’s doctor, which can help clear up skin issues. However, if the problem is severe, the child may be referred to a dermatologist or other specialists needed for assistance.
Treatment will depend on what type of skin condition your child has and can range from antibiotics to prescription-based topical medications.
- Ramdass P , et al. (n.d.). Viral Skin Diseases. - PubMed - NCBI. National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26612372
- Daniel L. Stulberg|Marc A. Penrod|Richard A. Blatny. (2002, July 1). Common Bacterial Skin Infections. AAFP American Academy of Family Physicians.
Retrieved from: https://www.aafp.org/afp/2002/0701/p119.html
- Parasitic Diseases With Cutaneous Manifestations. (2016, September). North Carolina Medical Journal.
Retrieved from: https://www.ncmedicaljournal.com/content/77/5/350.full