Luke Voytas is a pediatrician and author in Portland, Oregon. His posts combine research and common sense to help parents be calm and confident in raising their kids.

Those Annoying Bumps on Your Kid's Arms

Those Annoying Bumps on Your Kid's Arms

Probably twice a week, parents ask me about bumps on their kids’ skin. The bumps are small, flesh-colored, and hard. They don’t seem to bother the kids, but they drive parents crazy because nothing seems to make them go away. 

This condition is called keratosis pilaris (or maybe you prefer “chicken skin”), probably the most common skin condition you've never heard of – nearly half of kids have it to some degree, and plenty of adults do too. It’s harmless, but important to know about it. It’s actually a genetic condition in which the skin produces too much keratin (the main protein that makes up skin). This extra keratin plugs up hair follicles, and the tiny hair trying to get out of the follicle can tent up the skin into a little bump. There can be a tiny amount of redness around the bump due to inflammation.

The condition tends to occur on the outer upper arms, the outer thighs, and the cheeks for kids – by adulthood it usually settles into the arms. Anyone can have it, although it’s more common in kids with other skin issues like eczema. It’s usually not itchy but could be bothersome if it dries out, so it’s important to keep the areas moisturized. A lot of parents swear that certain foods make it worse, but it really has nothing to do with what your child eats.

Can you get rid of it? Kind of. When kids get older, maybe around ten, you can try to exfoliate the areas with a loofa or one of those fancy scrubs. This can break open the little keratin plugs. For younger kids, this will probably just irritate their skin further, so just leave it alone. And if the bumps get bigger, redder, or spread to other parts of your kid’s body, that’s not keratosis pilaris and you should get visit your doctor.

 

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