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Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory condition that causes skin symptoms such as scaly red patches. People of all ages can develop psoriasis, including babies and young children. However, although psoriasis can occur in babies, it is uncommon.
The condition speeds up the regeneration of skin cells, causing them to build up too quickly on the surface of the skin. The resulting extra skin cells can create patches that are dry, red, itchy, and sometimes painful.
In this article, we explain how babies get psoriasis, how it might affect them, and how to diagnose and treat it.
Babies rarely develop psoriasis. In fact, people are most likely to show signs of psoriatic skin symptoms from 15–35 years of age.
Although babies and very young children can develop psoriasis, a doctor will only be able to confirm a diagnosis through close observation.
Baby psoriasis tends to closely resemble a diaper rash. For this reason, it can be particularly easy to confuse baby psoriasis with more common rashes.
These will usually resolve with active treatment. If they do not, a child might be showing signs of psoriasis.
According to the Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis Alliance, having a diagnosis of baby psoriasis, or “napkin psoriasis,” does not appear to increase the risk of developing psoriasis later in childhood.
Psoriasis in babies can be extremely hard to diagnose. The symptoms can appear very similar to those of more common skin conditions.
Baby psoriasis usually leads to the baby developing non-scaly, red rashes around the folds of the groin area.
They might also develop more scaly lesions on the scalp. This might appear similar to cradle cap or seborrheic dermatitis.
Baby psoriasis is very rare. If a baby has a rash, it is likely to signal a more common condition, such as eczema.
Other rashes that babies often develop include:
- Pink pimples: These require no treatment and typically resolve on their own with time.
- Erythema toxicum: This is another common rash that appears as slightly raised red blotches with ill-defined borders. There is often a small white or yellow dot at the center of the rash.
- Dry, peeling skin: Almost all babies experience this. The skin underneath the dry patches is usually soft and moist.
- Little white bumps on the nose and face: These develop due to oil blocking the glands in the skin. They tend to get better as the glands open up over a few days or weeks.
- Salmon patches: These are small nests of blood vessels that cluster together. The redness tends to go away after a few weeks or months, though sometimes they never fully resolve.
How to tell baby psoriasis from other conditions
The only accurate way to tell if it is baby psoriasis or another skin condition is through careful observation.
A dermatologist or pediatrician can usually recognize the differences, so it is important for caregivers to seek medical attention for any rashes that do not clear up with time or treatment.
If a rash develops on a baby’s skin and remains for several days despite the use of over-the-counter creams and treatments, caregivers should seek consultation with a doctor so they can examine the rash.
There are no official guidelines for treating baby psoriasis. Doctors tend to rely on the results of case studies, guidelines for adult psoriasis, and expert opinion to treat the skin symptoms of psoriasis in babies.
However, some treatment options include:
- applying moisturizing creams and emollients to the skin
- keeping the affected areas clean and dry
- using specialized moisturizers for psoriatic skin symptoms
- trying phototherapy, which involves administering controlled doses of ultraviolet light to the affected areas
- avoiding exposure to extreme cold and heat
- taking oral medication
However, it is unlikely that a dermatologist or pediatrician will recommend a treatment more intensive than an emollient or moisturizer for a baby with mild psoriasis.
If symptoms are more severe than this, however, the doctor may suggest stronger treatment options.
Psoriasis is an unpredictable condition. It is usually lifelong, but if the skin symptoms of baby psoriasis resolve, it may not return later in life.
Some people experience a complete improvement in symptoms, whereas others live with a persistent rash and lesions.
It is important to seek medical attention for a baby that may be showing signs of psoriasis. That said, it is rare for a doctor to make this diagnosis, as the skin symptoms are usually the result of another skin condition.
Do all types of psoriasis develop in children?
Absolutely. Any type of psoriasis can occur at any age.
Although it typically does not present until people are teenagers, doctors have seen all types of psoriasis in younger children, too. Babies, on the other hand, experience psoriasis rashes very rarely.
Young children (under the age of 10) rarely develop large plaques or symptoms that standard treatments for mild psoriasis, such as lotions and emollients, cannot treat.Debra Sullivan, PhD, MSN, RN, CNE, COI Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.