Babies often develop diaper rash, eczema, and rashes from infections. Any rash accompanied by a fever or another sign of illness requires medical attention.
A baby’s skin can be very sensitive and susceptible to infection.
During the first 4 weeks of life, there can be many changes in a newborn’s skin, and several different rashes may develop in the first year.
Most rashes in babies are benign and resolve without medical attention, but in some cases, a pediatrician should investigate.
Keep reading to learn more about common types of rashes in babies and their treatments.
Many issues can cause a baby to develop a rash, and we cover these causes more extensively here.
A baby with eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, may have extremely itchy, dry skin and scratch or otherwise seem uncomfortable.
The characteristic small, raised bumps and scaly skin can take time to appear.
Babies with family members who have eczema, asthma, or hay fever may be more at risk of developing eczema. Living in a developed country, a cold climate, or both also increases the risk.
Research does not support the idea that certain foods trigger eczema. Doctors are aware, however, that some food allergies can make eczema worse.
Dry, itchy skin is usually the first symptom, before a very itchy rash appears.
Eczema can occur very early in life. A baby may develop patches of dry, scaly, itchy skin on the cheeks, elsewhere on the face, or on other areas of the body.
In some cases, the rash bubbles, oozes, and weeps fluid. Sometimes the skin becomes infected.
To scratch, a baby may rub their skin against bedding, carpeting, and other objects. They may also have difficulty sleeping.
While there is no cure for eczema, it tends to respond to a customized treatment plan. This may involve moisturizers, prescription medications, and adjustments to care.
Dermatologists may recommend:
- using fragrance-free products and specific bathing techniques
- applying corticosteroid creams or ointments
- identifying and eliminating triggers
The medical term for this is seborrheic dermatitis. People call this rash “cradle cap” because it most often appears on the scalp.
Doctors are unsure what causes cradle cap. Some evidence suggests that an overgrowth of the yeast Malassezia furfur is involved, while other research points to hormonal imbalances.
Cradle cap appears on the scalp, face, ears, neck, and diaper area. Color changes, such as redness, may be visible in skin folds, and scaling appears on the scalp.
It can be difficult for doctors to distinguish between cradle cap and eczema, but the age of the baby and the presence of itchiness can help. Cradle cap usually occurs within the first month of life and is not itchy.
Cradle cap tends to resolve on its own within a few weeks or months. If the baby’s appearance is a concern, a caregiver can remove the scales with a soft brush after shampooing the scalp.
White petroleum jelly or an overnight soak with vegetable oil may help soften the scales, making them easier to remove.
Contact dermatitis forms itchy blisters that appear in response to a substance or object that irritates the skin.
Irritants and allergens cause contact dermatitis, and diaper rash can result from this issue.
Some common triggers of contact dermatitis include soaps, detergents, and fabric softeners.
Babies with this issue develop a rash that may be red and is often scaly. The rash is itchy and occasionally features swollen, fluid-filled bumps or blisters.
A doctor can often identify the rash by observing its appearance and location and asking a caregiver about the baby’s exposure to various substances and objects.
To pinpoint the cause of the rash, the doctor may use a patch test to check the skin’s reaction to various allergens.
The best treatment is to prevent or at least reduce any further contact with the cause of the dermatitis. Occasionally, this alone can resolve the issue.
Also, cold compresses can help soothe the skin and relieve the itch, and oatmeal baths may have the same effect.
Depending on the severity, a doctor may recommend an oral antihistamine, moisturizer, or corticosteroid cream.
Skin infections can also cause rashes.
For example, impetigo is a contagious disease caused by a bacterium, and hand, foot, and mouth disease is a viral infection that usually occurs before the age of 5.
Different infections cause rashes with different characteristics. Impetigo causes raw sores or blisters, usually around the mouth or nose. The blisters often develop a thick, yellowish-brown crust.
Hand, foot, and mouth disease causes spots to form on the fingers, palms, and soles of the feet. These blisters may also form in the mouth or the back of the throat. Some babies develop a fever.
Both impetigo and hand, foot, and mouth disease are contagious. In addition to thoroughly examining the blisters, the doctor may ask about possible exposure to others with the infection.
Although impetigo sometimes goes away without treatment, doctors recommend using topical antibiotics. Treatment can prevent complications and keep the infection from spreading to others.
Hand, foot, and mouth disease can clear up without treatment in about 7–10 days. However, babies may take longer than this to feel better.
Because the disease is contagious, it is important to keep a baby who has it at home and limit or prevent any contact with others.
About 20% of newborns develop acne.
Research suggests that neonatal acne is caused by stimulation of the sebaceous glands by the infant’s or mother’s androgen, a hormone that can contribute to acne.
A baby with acne may have pimples on their forehead, nose, and cheeks. The lesions may be inflamed, filled with pus, or both.
Pediatricians can identify neonatal acne with a visual examination. The issue may develop in the first 2–6 weeks of life.
The skin tends to clear, without scarring, in about 4 weeks, so treatment is usually unnecessary.
In some cases, a doctor may recommend applying a 2.5% benzoyl peroxide lotion to the affected areas.
Severe acne accompanied by other symptoms requires medical attention.
Caregivers may find it difficult to identify the type of rash on a baby’s body, and an accurate diagnosis is important. Pediatricians and dermatologists can help provide appropriate guidance and treatment.
Consult a doctor if a baby has any symptoms that accompany a rash, such as a fever or changes in behavior, sleep, or feeding.
Rashes are common in babies, and many rashes resolve without treatment.
Still, if the cause of a rash is hard to identify or if there are any other symptoms, such as a fever, bring the baby to a pediatrician.