There are many potential causes of rosy cheeks on a baby. Most are harmless and quickly respond to medical treatment.
Some babies naturally have cheeks that are slightly redder than the rest of their face. The cheeks can also turn red when a baby cries or smiles, due to increased blood flow to the area.
However, if the cheeks seem unusually red for a long time, this may indicate a health issue.
This article explores the various causes of rosy cheeks on a baby, as well as treatments and when to speak with a doctor.
Several conditions can cause red cheeks on a baby.
It is important to note that the conditions listed below may cause rosy cheeks in infants of any skin tone or color, but the appearance of rosy cheeks may be harder to detect in babies with darker skin.
Anyone unsure of whether their baby may have rosy cheeks due to a condition requiring medical care should consult a pediatrician.
Possible causes of rosy cheeks include:
A mild virus, known as parvovirus B19, causes an infection called Fifth’s disease.
Some people call the condition “slapped cheek syndrome” because it causes very red cheeks.
Some babies later develop a rash on the chest or neck. Other symptoms include cold-like symptoms, such as a runny nose or fever, which often appear a few days after the rash.
Fifth’s disease usually goes away on its own, while it causes mild symptoms in children.
In some adults and very sick people, the condition may cause more severe symptoms, such as joint pain that lasts for weeks.
Teething sometimes causes a red rash on the cheeks and chin. This happens when a baby drools and the drool dries on the skin, causing redness, irritation, and chapping.
The rash is usually harmless, but severe rashes might crack open and bleed, increasing the risk of acquiring an infection.
Parents can reduce the risk of teething rash by removing drool from a baby’s cheeks and face, and applying a mild moisturizer.
Dry, irritated skin from dry air or intense cold can appear chapped and red. Chapped skin looks similar to a teething rash.
Areas of the skin that come into contact with cold air, such as the cheeks and lips, are more vulnerable to chapping. Babies with eczema or dry skin are also more prone.
Chapped skin can be itchy and painful, but it is not dangerous. Frequently applying moisturizer to the affected areas can help.
Inflammation of the skin sometimes occurs in response to certain triggers, such as irritating soaps or foods.
Eczema on the cheeks may look similar to red or scaly patches. Babies may also develop eczema elsewhere on the body.
Severe eczema can look very dry, and may even crack open and bleed. The condition also increases the risk of contracting skin infections.
When bacteria or other dangerous pathogens get into the skin and multiply, it can trigger an infection. This usually occurs when a baby has a cut, such as from a scratch, injury, or dry skin that cracks.
Sometimes, a skin infection can appear with no clear explanation.
One type of skin infection, cellulitis, affects the deeper layers of skin. It can cause bright redness and swelling. Sometimes, red streaks appear as the rash spreads.
It is possible to contract an infection in both cheeks, but an infection is more likely if one cheek is red.
The following are treatment options for the medical causes of rosy cheeks:
- Fifth’s disease will resolve on its own. Because it is a virus, it will not respond to antibiotics.
- Dry, chapped skin usually responds well to moisturizer. Moist air may also help relieve this symptom in babies, for which a person can use a humidifier.
- Eczema may also improve with moisturizer, though it is important to avoid products that irritate the skin. Prescription and over-the-counter medications, such as hydrocortisone, can reduce inflammation.
- Skin infections respond well to antibiotic treatment, but it is important to use the right one. It is also important not to reuse an antibiotic.
Discuss symptoms with a doctor before using any of these remedies.
Consult with a healthcare professional if:
- a rash cracks open and bleeds
- there are signs of infection, such as red streaks coming out of a rash, a fever, swelling, or a very fussy baby
- eczema symptoms do not get better with home treatment
- redness or a rash does not clear up within a few days
- a baby develops a rash following an injury or illness
Unless the baby has eczema, severely dry skin, or a skin infection, red cheeks usually go away on their own, with or without treatment.
Dry skin and eczema may require ongoing management. While these conditions can make the skin feel dry or itchy, they are not dangerous.
These conditions may make the skin more vulnerable to infections, so it is vital to monitor for signs that may indicate a worsening rash or infection.
A skin infection can spread without treatment, but most infections clear within a few days with antibiotics.
Parents and caregivers do not need to panic about red cheeks in a baby.
However, if the redness does not go away, spreads, or causes distress in the baby, it is important to speak with a doctor.
Seeking prompt care can prevent infections from worsening.