While rashes on babies are common, and most are not a cause for alarm, they can be uncomfortable and cause irritation.
There are many potential reasons why babies develop rashes. Sometimes, a rash occurs without any additional symptoms.
Other times, there may be an obvious reason for the rash, such as switching to a new soap or coming in contact with a new substance.
In other cases, a caregiver may need to talk to a doctor to figure out what could be causing the rash.
Possible causes include:
Cradle cap is a rash that appears on or around the scalp. It produces yellowish, greasy patches that appear scaly.
Cradle cap is not a major issue and should clear on its own with no need for treatment.
It rarely causes any discomfort or other symptoms for the baby. Learn more here.
Eczema causes red, dry skin that is commonly itchy and rough to the touch. Though there is no cure for eczema, caregivers can help reduce symptoms with proper care, such as washing, moisturizing, and reducing exposure to triggers.
A diaper rash appears as a red area typically around the baby’s buttocks and groin and can cause discomfort.
Keeping the area clean and dry can help prevent diaper rash. Creams are available over the counter (OTC) that can help treat the rash.
The AAD state that acne affects about 20% of newborns. A parent or caregiver may first notice this when the baby is about 2 weeks old, but it can develop anytime before 6 weeks of age.
Parents and caregivers should not treat the acne with medication intended for older children and adults. Baby acne typically clears within a few weeks with no intervention.
Impetigo is a common bacterial infection in children and babies. It causes itchy bumps and blisters.
It is highly contagious and requires treatment. Infants who go to daycare or nursery usually need to stay home until they are no longer contagious.
It is rarely serious, however, and usually resolves without complications. Learn more here.
Fifth disease is a common cause of rash and fever in children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), parvovirus B19 virus is responsible for the condition. Doctors sometimes call it erythema infectiosum.
Fifth disease often presents as a red rash on the cheeks, but it may appear on other parts of the body.
In addition to a rash, an infant may have:
- runny nose
- a fever
Hand, foot, and mouth disease is a common cause of rashes in children.
According to the CDC, hand, foot, and mouth occurs most often in children under the age of 5, but anyone can get it.
Some symptoms of hand, foot, and mouth include:
- a fever
- sores on the mouth
- a sore throat
- loss of appetite
- red rash on the skin near hands, feet, or mouth that may blister
An allergic reaction may cause a rash on a baby’s skin. An allergic rash, or hives, is often red, raised bumps on the skin.
The reaction may occur due to foods, stings, bites, or medicines. Mild reactions typically go away without treatment.
Babies and adults can develop a heat rash. The rash typically appears as clusters of pink raised dots that occur due to overheating.
Babies may develop small water blisters on the rash. There is no illness or fever associated with a heat rash.
According to the CDC, chickenpox is now less common in the United States because a vaccine has significantly reduced the number of cases per year.
However, it is still possible for infants to get chickenpox. Chickenpox typically presents as a rash that progresses to itchy, fluid-filled sacs.
Chickenpox often presents with fever, loss of appetite, or tiredness.
Meningitis is a serious illness that requires immediate medical attention. In addition to a rash, other signs and symptoms of meningitis include:
- sensitivity to light
- baby’s neck is stiff
- uncontrollable shaking
- hands or feet are abnormally cold
- appearing confused
- a fever
It is not possible to prevent all rashes. If a rash occurs due to an illness, the rash will usually go away once the baby is no longer sick.
Caregivers can reduce a baby’s exposure to allergens and triggers to eczema and other rashes. This may not prevent all rashes, but taking preventive measures could help.
A parent or caregiver can help prevent diaper rash by keeping the area clean and dry. Ensuring a baby’s clothes are clean and dry can help prevent moisture rashes from occurring.
If there is no apparent cause of the rash or if the baby is showing other signs of illness, such as a fever, it is best to speak to a doctor.
The infant may need to see a pediatrician, who is a doctor for children, or a dermatologist, who specializes in skin conditions.
Parents and caregivers should seek immediate medical attention if a baby is showing signs of meningitis, which is a severe, life threatening infection.
Rashes on babies can cause discomfort but usually clear up with at-home treatment. However, a parent or caregiver should seek medical attention if the baby has other symptoms, such as a fever, lack of appetite, or a stiff neck.
Treatments will vary based on the underlying condition. Anyone unsure about the cause of the rash or the appropriate treatment should talk to a doctor.