Keratosis & Children

What are the risks for children with regards to keratosis? Is it common? Does the treatment differ from those administered to adults? Are there greater and more serious risks to the health of children if they contract this skin disorder? Keratosis results from the build-up of keratin, a key protein in the structural foundation of hair and nails, on the skin.  There are four types of keratosis: seborrheic, actinic, hydrocarbon and pilaris.


Seborrheic keratosis presents as ugly, wart like lesions. They appear in a variety of colors, from light tan to black. They are round or oval in appearance. In fact in many cases they resemble melanoma skin cancers although they are in fact benign. This form of the disorder is acquired by children in two major ways. First, it is entirely possible for children to acquire it through the family genes. Parents who have suffered from the condition will in all probability pass it on to their offspring. Exposure to the dangerous ultra violet rays of the sun is another way of contracting it. Use protective measures (long sleeves, long pants, hats, as well as sunscreen with a high SPF).


Keratosis pilaris (KP), also known as ‘chicken skin’, is characterized by tiny bumps on the skin commonly found on the upper arms, thighs and cheeks. The bumps are rough to the touch, sandpapery in texture, appears flesh colored to slightly red and can be itchy.  Commonly seen in children and teens (it can however present as early as infancy), KP is hereditary. It is a follicular condition which occurs when there is an excess build-up of keratin on the skin which entraps the hair follicles in the pores. Treatment of KP is not essentially necessary as it is benign, meaning that there is no risk of evolution into cancer. However, to combat the itching that occurs and to mitigate the unpleasant look and feel of those tiny bumps, a mild peeling agent to remove the dead skin where the build-up of keratin occurs, as well as creams and lotions for use as moisturizers, is applied.


Actinic keratosis is a condition which produces thick scaly, crusty patches of skin which does not typically occur in children. Hydrocarbon keratosis is caused by exposure to ‘polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons’ and is unlikely to present in children.


Prevention is always best. The kind of keratosis most commonly found in children is often due to sun exposure, close monitoring of your child’s activities will significantly decrease the risk of contracting this condition.



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