Eczema herpeticum and staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome can be emergencies in children and require immediate care, warned dermatologist George Hightower, MD, PhD, in a presentation at MedscapeLive’s virtual Women’s & Pediatric Dermatology Seminar.

Eczema herpeticum is a condition in which a herpes simplex virus (HSV-1 or HSV-2) is superimposed over preexisting eczema. “The infection may be primary and sustained from a close contact or result in some of our older patients from reactivation and spread through autoinoculation,” said Dr. Hightower, of Rady Children’s Hospital and the University of California, both in San Diego.

Signs, he said, include acute worsening of atopic dermatitis with new-onset vesicles, pustules, and “punched-out” hemorrhagic crusted erosions. “Presentation ranges from mild to transient to life threatening.”

Potential complications include meningitis, encephalitis, hepatitis, and chronic conjunctivitis. “That’s why immediate ophthalmological evaluation is needed when there’s involvement on the face near the eye,” he said.

As for management and care, “where I have concern for HSV patients, I get HSV [polymerase chain reaction] as well as a bacterial culture,” he said. But even before the results are available, empiric treatment with acyclovir can be appropriate. “It’s got to be systemic for these kids with severe involvement,” he said, and they should also be started on medication for staphylococci and streptococci.

During his presentation, Dr. Hightower also highlighted staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome. Patients with the disease commonly have concurrent skin pain (which can appear to be fussiness), fever, irritability, malaise, and poor feeding. Examination may reveal widespread erythema with accentuation at folds/peeling at hands and large sheets of superficial peeling scale with diffuse erythema.

Widespread skin involvement “results not from the presence of staph throughout the skin, but the exotoxin that it produces that becomes systemic,” he said. “Clinical diagnosis is supported by presence of S. aureus on bacterial culture, but the presence of staph is not necessary to make the diagnosis. When in doubt, histopathology is helpful. But again, it’s not necessary to make the diagnosis.”

Cases can be managed with a first- or second-generation cephalosporin, he said. Alternative therapies include antistaphylococcus penicillinase-resistant penicillins (oxacillin or nafcillin) or vancomycin.

While Dr. Hightower doesn’t use clindamycin in these patients, he said it’s an option that some dermatologists consider because of its antistaphylococcus activity. “Historically, people thought it may decrease exotoxin production. The big concern if you are going to use clindamycin is that there are high rates of community resistance,” he said. “So you want to be careful that you know your resistance patterns wherever you are. Follow up on culture to make sure that you have adequate coverage for the bug that the kiddo in front of you has.”

Dr. Hightower reported no relevant disclosures. MedscapeLive and this news organization are owned by the same parent company.