The scalded skin syndrome is a severe superficial bacterial skin infection known as Ritter disease or dermatitis exfoliativa neonatorum in newborn infants, and toxic epidermal necrolysis in older children. Milder forms are known as pemphigus neonatorum or bullous impetigo. Scalded skin syndrome and Lyell syndrome are terms that cover all forms.
It is caused by the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus (golden Staph) that spreads from the nose, eyes, mouth or umbilicus to areas of the skin damaged by eczema or injury. It may be a complication of the Stevens-Johnson syndrome.
The infant or child has severe peeling of skin that commences on the face and genitals and spreads across body. The skin appears similar to very severe sunburn. Death from fluid loss through damaged skin or internal spread of infection is possible.
A culture of swabs from the nose, eyes, throat and umbilicus will confirm responsible bacteria and the appropriate antibiotic (e.g. penicillin or erythromycin). The infection responds slowly to antibiotics, but most children recover.