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A guide to common baby rashes


Part of becoming a mom is learning about sh*t you never thought you’d need to. Like what color poop should be, how to teach another being to sleep, and what rashes can grace your babe’s gorgeous skin. Yay. 

There’s nothing more stressful than discovering something has changed on your little one’s body, particularly if it’s in the form of an angry-looking rash. Most children will experience a rash at some point or another, meaning awareness is key. (And so is reading about this stuff before you’re in panic mode and madly Googling “baby rash on face”.) 

So, we’ve got you covered, mama. Here’s a guide to common baby rashes, including what they are, what causes them, and what to look for. 

Firstly, what are rashes?

A rash is an area of irritated or swollen skin. Here are three things to know about rashes:

1. There are many different types of baby rashes…

And they each have their own symptoms and concerns. For example, some rashes simply involve a change in color or texture of the skin, others are accompanied by itching or fever, and some even lead to blisters or raw patches. 

2. Most rashes disappear on their own…

And without treatment, in just a few days or weeks. However, some rashes might linger and might require medical attention (again, which is why knowing what you’re dealing with is essential).

3. Rashes can be caused by many factors…

And it’s likely nothing you’re doing wrong! Rashes can be caused by temperature (if it’s very hot or cold), allergens, pre-existing skin conditions, and even infections.

Seven common baby rashes (and what to do about them)

While kids of all ages can get rashes, babies can seem particularly prone to them. Why? Well, your babe’s skin is super sensitive. Plus, some rashes are literally associated with newborns… go figure. Let’s explore further.

Rashes that are common amongst newborns 

We’re talkin’ three months or younger.

Erythema toxicum

Erythema toxicum (good luck working out how to say that) is a baby rash that’s super common amongst newborns. In fact, statistics show it’s experienced by up to half of all newborns in the US of A. 

It appears as blotchy red areas on the face, chest, arms, or legs with small fluid-filled bumps (which is not pus, thank f*ck). Thankfully, it’s harmless and should not cause your little one any discomfort. 

The cause of erythema toxicum is unknown (grr), so there’s not much you can do to prevent it. It also disappears on its own, so it doesn’t require treatment – welcome news to a busy mom navigating those wild (and wonderful) postpartum days. 

As is the case with any rash, if your babe is fussy, not feeding well, and has a fever, speak to your doctor immediately.

Source: Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne / huidziekten.nl 

Heat rash

Heat rash in a baby is… well, it’s exactly what it says on the packet. It’s a rash that happens when your little one’s sweat glands become blocked or inflamed, usually during hot and steamy weather or when your baby is too hot. Interestingly, newborns are particularly susceptible to heat rash because their sweat glands aren’t fully developed. 

What does a heat rash look like on a baby? It presents as red, brown, purple, or grey spots (depending on your babe’s gorgeous skin tone) on the face, neck, and in skin folds. The spots might be accompanied by tiny clear blisters, and unfortunately, it can all be itchy as sh*t (so your babe might be grumpy about it). 

You can prevent and treat heat rash by keeping your baby cool and helping them avoid getting too sweaty. So heat rash home remedies include: pumping the A/C, not overdressing them, and ensuring their skin is kept dry and that you regularly change sweaty clothes and diapers. In addition, if your little one is scratching, calamine lotion can help relieve the itch. 

If heat rash persists for more than three days or if those little blisters fill with yellow or green pus, see your doctor ASAP. (Isn’t taking care of a tiny human fun?)

Source: Raising Children 

Diaper rash

Diaper rash is a type of dermatitis (medical speak for a skin irritation) and is a very common baby rash (babies wear diapers, after all). It appears as red, ouchy-looking skin around the butt, thighs, and genitals, and it can be pretty damn uncomfortable. 

Diaper rash can be caused by irritation from a dirty diaper, a bacterial or yeast infection, or changes to your baby’s poop (from taking antibiotics or when introducing solids). You can prevent diaper rash by changing your babe’s diaper often and ensuring their skin is clean and dry before popping on a new diaper. 

If diaper rash happens, use a baby diaper rash cream (like a barrier ointment) to soothe your little one’s skin, and consider some diaper-free time to give the skin some relief. See a doctor if it persists or worsens despite your efforts to treat it at home. 

Source: MomABC.net


Milia

Milia, otherwise known as milk spots, are tiny bumps that can appear across your baby’s nose, chin, or cheeks. They’re not harmful and are common amongst newborns – about 40-50 per cent of newborns in the US sport them. 

They look like tiny white bumps on the skin, and they’re caused by dead skin flakes trapped under the skin’s surface (gross). Unfortunately, you can’t prevent milia, and there’s no real treatment for it. Though, you can take steps to look after your babe’s skin should it occur: 

  • Wash the area with water and gentle soap
  • Pat skin dry, rather than rubbing a towel over it
  • No lotions are needed, and for f*ck’s sake, don’t try to pop or scrape those little spots – it can harm the skin or cause infection!

Milia usually disappear on their own after a few weeks or months. However, head to your doctor if they don’t clear up or you’re concerned about your little one’s complexion. 

Source: Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne / huidziekten.nl 

Rashes that are common amongst babies

So that’s three months or older.

Drool rash

Much like heat rash, drool rash is, well, what the name suggests: a rash caused when excess saliva irritates the skin. It shows as red, inflamed skin or small red bumps on the face, neck, and chest, and sadly it can be uncomfortable and tender for your babe (wah!). 

To know what causes drool rash, you need to know what causes the drool. Teething is one potential source. However, it could also just be that your baby is using their mouth to explore the world (a totally normal developmental phase) – this can also produce a lot of saliva. 

You can’t prevent the drool, but you can take steps to keep your baby’s face, neck, and chest dry: wipe up the drool, pop a bib on, and change their clothes if they become too wet. If your baby does develop drool rash, a barrier ointment can help soothe aggravated skin. 

If your baby’s drool rash doesn’t improve or worsens, see your doctor; increased drooling can be a sign of infection. 

Source: Dermnet NZ


Hives

Hives are a visual reaction to an allergen. They appear anywhere on the body as little raised red bumps or welts and can be downright itchy and uncomfortable (boo). 

Hives can crop up within minutes of exposure to whatever your babe might be allergic to; this could be food, household products, insect bites, animals, or pollen. It’s also important to note that extreme temperatures, stress, and infections can contribute to hives too. 

Side note: if you’ve introduced a new food to your babe and hives have popped up, they may be allergic to said food. Seek medical attention ASAP if this is the case because other food allergy symptoms can include swelling of the throat and tightening of the airways (not ideal). 

The best prevention for hives is to keep your baby away from whatever triggers their allergies (if you know what this is, of course – you might only become aware they have allergies until hives pop up). If hives happen, a doctor might recommend antihistamines to help with the itch. 

In mild cases, hives will go away on their own. But if hives persist or worsen, you know what to do, mama… see your doctor. 

Source: Healthychildren.org

Eczema 

Eczema is a type of dermatitis that appears as dry, red, itchy skin. Around 10-20 per cent of infants experience eczema, but – in good news – many grow out of it or see improvement as they get older. It can occur anywhere on the body and can be pretty uncomfortable and itchy. 

Allergies and environmental factors – like cold/hot weather, skin products, and fabrics – are common causes of eczema. Eczema can come and go, and often there’s no one cause of a flare-up (though you could keep a diary to identify when flare-ups happen and what factors might have caused them). 

In terms of prevention and treatment for eczema:

  • Keep your babe’s skin clean, dry, and moisturized using non-allergenic products. 
  • Keep them cool and dressed in soft fabrics, like cotton. 
  • Try to stop them from scratching, and pick up a topical steroid cream to help with irritated skin – your doctor can prescribe this. 

Speaking of doctors, make an appointment to see yours if your little one’s eczema persists or worsens despite treatment.

Source: Dermnet NZ

A final word…

The information in this article doesn’t replace medical advice, mama. 

If your babe has a rash, and you’re concerned because symptoms are worsening, changing, or persisting, speak to your doctor. There’s no harm in checking in, and it will help put your mind at ease (this is perhaps one of the most important things we learned to do as new moms). Plus, it can be really, really hard to tell what a baby rash is, what’s cause for worry, and what’s not. 

Importantly, if you press on the rash and the skin underneath it remains red (rather than turning pale), seek medical assistance immediately – this can be a sign of meningitis, which can be severe if untreated.

Now that you’ve got common baby rashes down pat, why not master sleep, hiccups, acid reflux, and teething. Go, girl! 

Mayo Clinic, Slide show: Common skin rashes 

Pregnancy, Birth and Baby, Common childhood rashes

MedlinePlus, Rash – child under 2 years

MedlinePlus, Rash

Nemours Children’s Health, Erythema toxicum

Skinsight, Erythema Toxicum Neonatorum

Raisingchildren.net.au, Erythema toxicum 

Raisingchildren.net.au, Heat rash

Mayo Clinic, Dermatitis

Seattle Children’s, Diaper Rash

Mayo Clinic, Milia

Cleveland Clinic, Milia

Verywell Family, What To Do About Your Baby’s Drool Rash

Mayo Clinic, Hives and angioedema

Nemours Children’s Health, Hives (Urticaria)

Cleveland Clinic, Eczema

Healthychildren.org, How to Treat & Control Eczema Rashes in Children 

Skinsight, Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis)

Raisingchildren.net.au, Eczema

C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, Newborn Rashes and Skin Conditions

Seattle Children’s, Newborn Rashes and Birthmarks

Mayo Clinic, Food allergy

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