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Pityriasis Alba (Patches of Lighter Skin)

What is pityriasis alba?

Pityriasis alba is a harmless and common childhood skin condition of patches of lighter skin color.

What is the cause?

The cause of this skin condition is not known. It may have to do with dry skin or chemicals that come into contact with the skin.

The lighter patches of skin are more common in the summer, but they can happen at any time of year.

What are the symptoms?

The patches of lighter skin are dry and scaly. They are most often on the face and sometimes on the neck, upper part of the chest, or arms.

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your child’s medical history and activities and examine your child. Often your child will not need to have any tests. To check for possible causes of the symptoms, tests may include:

  • Examining your child’s skin with a blue light
  • Scraping the skin for a culture in the lab
  • Looking at your child’s skin under a microscope

How is it treated?

After several weeks your child’s skin color will gradually go back to normal without treatment. Lotions and moisturizers may help. Nonprescription hydrocortisone cream may also help the patches go away more quickly. Don’t use hydrocortisone cream on the face for long periods of time (months) without first talking with your healthcare provider.

How can I take care of my child?

Once the skin is back to its normal color, use skin lotions and moisturizers to help lower the chance that the patches will return.

Ask your healthcare provider:

  • How and when you will get your child’s test results
  • How long it will take your child to recover from this condition
  • How to take care of your child at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if your child has them

Make sure you know when you should bring your child back for a checkup.

Written by Robert M. Brayden, MD, Professor of Clinical Pediatrics, University of Colorado School of Medicine.
Pediatric Advisor 2019.4 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2016-05-11
Last reviewed: 2018-05-09
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2018 Change Healthcare LLC and/or one of its subsidiaries
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