A rash on your baby’s skin can throw you into a panic. Fortunately, skin rashes are normal and there’s usually nothing to worry about.
Nonetheless, there are some things you can do keep your baby’s skin healthy, moisturized and protected from the effects of rashes.
First, let’s delve into the types of skin rashes that you may notice on your baby. Each description of the skin condition is followed by treatment suggestions.
Baby acne is characterized by red pimples on baby's forehead, nose, and cheeks. Some babies may also develop acne on their back.While baby acne is a common condition, the exact causes are unknown. There has been some association between baby acne and exposure to maternal hormones while the baby is in the womb and through breastfeeding. However, this doesn’t mean you should change your breastfeeding habits.
Usually, the pimples go away on their own accord but persistent acne may require treatment. Acne may worsen if your baby is fussy. Other triggers that may cause acne to become more pronounced include rough fabrics and saliva left on the face for too long.
Some babies may develop acne at birth but this skin condition usually sets in at week two or four after birth and may last for several days or weeks. In severe cases, baby acne can linger around for months.
How to Treat Baby Acne
Your baby’s acne is temporary and should clear in a short while. Meanwhile, here’s what you can do to minimize the appearance and effects of acne:
- Avoid popping pimples
This can increase the risk of infection and scarring.
- Use warm water to clean baby’s face
You may use a mild and moisturizing soap that will soothe baby's skin. If you are unsure about the best soap to use, consult with your pediatrician.
- Don’t apply cosmetic products to skin
Lotions and creams may worsen acne.
- Avoid scrubbing baby’s skin
Gently wipe the face and other affected areas using a warm soapy washcloth and then use a soft towel to pat the baby’s skin dry.
- If you are worried about your baby’s acne, consult a pediatrician. What looks like acne could turn out to be an allergy or a skin condition such as eczema and these need prescribed treatments.
Dry, Flaky Or Peeling Skin
Just like adults, babies also get dry skin. In the first few weeks following their birth, you may notice a lot of changes to your baby's skin. Flaking and peeling around the ankles, feet, hands, and face is especially common among newborns.
When a baby is born, she is covered in fluids including a thick coating known as vernix. The vernix goes away a few days after birth, causing your baby’s skin to shed within the first three weeks.
Factors such as whether your baby was delivered on time will affect the amount of skin peeling. Also, if your baby was covered in a lot of vernix at birth, she probably will not peel as much.
Premature babies are usually covered in more vernix and will typically peel less than babies delivered on time.
All in all, almost all babies peel and have dry, flaky skin and this is not something to worry about. There are some things you can do, however, to minimize peeling and to keep your baby’s skin moist.
How to Treat Dry, Flaky and Peeling Skin
- Make bath times shorter
Long baths can strip the natural oils from baby’s skin so you want to make these baths shorter. Avoid bubble baths as these are not favorable to baby's sensitive skin.
Increase the level of moisture in your home using a cool mist humidifier. Moisture in the air helps to ease dry skin.
Keep your baby’s skin moisturized with an allergy-free lotion, cream or oil at least two times a day. Preferably, you should moisturize the baby after bath to lock in the moisture. Massaging the baby’s skin can also go a long way in removing flaky skin and can aid the peeling process.
- Cover up
Cold air exacerbates dry skin so use mittens and socks to protect the baby’s hands and feet. Covering baby in a blanket whenever you are outdoors also helps greatly.
- Be gentle
Harsh chemicals found in detergents, bathing products, and lotions can irritate your baby's skin. Avoid bringing the baby’s sensitive skin in to contact with these products and instead opt for gentler, allergy-free products.
Milia is a common occurrence in newborns but anyone can get this temporary skin condition. The most common milia symptom is small pimples on the baby’s cheeks, chin, and nose.
It is possible for these bumps to appear on the hands, legs, and upper trunk. When the white bumps appear on the roof of baby’s mouth or gum, the condition is known as Epstein pearls. Sometimes, milia may occur alongside acne.
Up to 50 percent of newborns get milia a few days after birth and although the tiny white bumps may look unsightly, they are completely harmless.
Milia usually resolve in about two to three weeks. In most cases, no treatment is necessary.
The tiny white bumps result from dead skin clogging the upper layer of your baby’s skin. The bumps gradually disappear as the dead skin sloughs off.
Although milia and acne can develop at the same time, this doesn’t mean your child will grow up to have acne. Factors such as genetics and environmental stimuli play a big role in predicting who will get acne.
Like most baby rashes, milia usually clear up on their own. You just need to give it a couple of weeks or at most a month or two.
How to Treat Milia
Like most baby rashes, milia usually clear up on their own. You just need to give it a couple of weeks or at most a month or two.
Other precautions you can take include:
- Avoid squeezing the bumps as this can cause a skin infection and scarring
- Wipe your baby’s face using a soft washcloth preferably with plain water to avoid irritating the skin.
- See your doctor if the white bumps do not go away in a month or two.
Cradle cap appears as a dandruff-like, flaky, thick, yellowish or brown crust on the baby’s scalp. Also known as infantile seborrheic dermatitis, cradle cap may seem scary but it is very common among newborns.
While some children may have cradle cap for a little longer, in most children it clears out within 6 months to a year.
Although this condition typically affects the scalp, it can also appear around the eyebrows, eyelids, ears, and armpits.
The true causes of cradle cap are unknown. A common myth is that the crusty scalp is due to poor hygiene but this is just that—a myth.
Some studies have shown that cradle cap results from baby’s oil glands being overstimulated by maternal hormones released at the end of a pregnancy. Other experts say yeast that grows in the sebum could be responsible for causing irritation that results in cradle cap.
How to Treat Cradle Cap
Cradle cap goes away on its own but if you are feeling impatient about it:
- Use a soft brush or just your fingers to massage baby’s scalp to loosen the crust.
- Shampoo at least once a day and thoroughly rinse baby's hair. Afterward, use a soft brush to gently sweep through the scalp. Look out for shampoos specifically used to loosen cradle cap.
- Natural oils such as pure olive oil or almond can help relieve stubborn cradle cap. Massage some oil on baby’s scalp and allow to soak for about 20 minutes. Use a soft brush to comb out the flakes before thoroughly cleaning the scalp with a soothing baby shampoo.
- If the cradle cap is weepy or bleeding, speak to your doctor. An over-the-counter prescription cream or anti-dandruff shampoo may be recommended.
Also known as atopic dermatitis, eczema is a type of skin rash that typically affects children aged 5 years and below but this skin condition can indeed affect anyone.
In babies, eczema appears on the scalp and cheeks but it may also affect the upper trunk, chest, legs, arms and hidden creases.This condition affects up to 20 percent of babies with as many as 65 percent developing eczema in the first 12 months of life.
Eczema may appear like a thick, dry and scaly rash but it may also manifest as small red weepy bumps that become aggravated by scratching.This skin condition is not contagious but the intense itching can be painful and uncomfortable especially for a child.
Like other skin rashes, the exact causes of eczema are unknown but some studies show that genetics plays a significant role.
Environmental allergens such as dander, pollen, fragrances, lotions, detergents, cigarette smoke and hay can trigger a flare-up. Other common irritants include dry skin, changing temperatures, heat and food allergens.
How To Treat Eczema
- Bathe your baby in lukewarm water at least once a day.
- Use gentle soaps or preferably cleansers without soap to bathe your child. Pat the baby dry using a soft towel; avoid rubbing as this may aggravate eczema.
- Apply oil or creams on damp skin to lock in the body’s moisture.
- Dress your child in smooth fabrics such as cotton. If possible do not cover up your baby too much to keep her skin cool.
- Use gentle allergy-free personal care products that are suitable for sensitive skin. Avoid products that are soap-based or contain fragrance and opt for more natural ones instead.
- Ensure that your baby sleeps on the softest sheets possible to avoid triggering flare-ups.
- Apply a cold compress to the affected areas and moisturize to relieve flare-ups.
- Identify potential allergens or consult an allergist who will help you identify possible irritants and ways to eliminate these.
Certain food allergens may trigger or aggravate eczema. Dairy products, fish, peanuts, soy and gluten products are common allergenic foods. If you are breastfeeding you may try to eliminate these foods from your diet one at a time to see whether food is a culprit.
Your pediatric dermatologist may recommend a mild topical steroid or a stronger variety if the eczema is particularly stubborn.
Prickly heat, also known as heat rash, results from sweat being trapped under the skin. Due to their developing sweat glands, babies are more prone to developing prickly heat.
Prickly heat symptoms include red itchy bumps mostly around the chest, neck, and shoulders. Hidden areas such as the groin and where clothes frequently rub against the skin are also prone to heat rash.
Prickly heat may cause your baby to become fussy but the itchy rash will usually go away on its own.
If your baby develops small red bumps on their skin, check to see if they have too many clothes on and whether they are dressed suitably for the weather.
How to Treat Prickly Heat
- Bathe your baby in lukewarm water to help relieve their itchy skin
- Keep baby’s skin cool and dry
- Avoid oil-based creams or lotions that may clog the skin pores
- Change baby’s sweaty or wet clothes immediately
- Cool the skin by applying calamine lotion or a low dosage of hydrocortisone cream
- See your pediatrician if the baby develops a fever
Once you cool your baby’s skin the heat rash will begin to subside.
Diaper rash appears as irritated red spots that may feel warm to the touch. Diaper rash may be mild and affect only a small area but sometimes it can spread to the thighs and upper trunk.
Diaper rash is pretty common in the first year of a child's life with some usual causes including:
A mixture of stool and urine can expose your child’s skin to excessive moisture and ammonia which can irritate the skin. Leaving your baby in a wet diaper for too long predisposes them to diaper rash.
Even if you change your child's diaper regularly, it is possible for them to develop diaper rash from sensitivity to chemicals in the diaper. Also, products such as baby powders or lotions used during diaper changes may irritate the skin.
New foods cause changes in the baby's stool and the excreted acids may not be favorable to baby’s sensitive skin.
Diapers create a moist and warm environment that is conducive to bacteria and yeast, which can cause a rash.
Medicines such antibiotics may kill healthy bacteria, increasing your baby’s risk of a yeast infection or diarrhea, which can cause diaper rash.
How to Treat Diaper Rash
- To relieve diaper rash:Change your baby’s diaper frequently to ensure that the diaper area is always dry.
- Clean the diaper area thoroughly preferably with alcohol-free and fragrance-free wipes. Wet cotton balls will come in handy.
- Instead of rubbing, pat your baby’s skin dry.
- Apply petroleum jelly, zinc oxide or a good ointment around the diaper area to protect baby’s skin from irritation from urine and stool.
- Avoid making the diaper too tight to keep the baby’s skin breathable.
- Use skin-sensitive and extra-absorbent diapers to keep your baby’s skin dry and to protect it from irritation possibly from fragrances.
When To Consult a Doctor
Many of these common skin rashes will resolve on their own a few weeks or months after their onset. However, you should see a doctor if the rash comes with the following symptoms:
- Lack of appetite
- Coughing and sneezing
Skin rashes are easily manageable and only require simple home treatments. But, if you are worried about a skin rash on your baby, a doctor can recommend effective treatments that will help relieve the rash and any accompanying symptoms.