There are many types of rashes that affect various parts of a baby’s body.
These rashes are typically very treatable. While they may be uncomfortable, they aren’t cause for alarm. Rashes are rarely an emergency.
Sometimes, infant rashes can indicate a more serious illness. We’ll discuss different types of baby rashes, how to treat them, and when to call a doctor.
Babies have very new skin and developing immune systems. Their skin is sensitive and susceptible to many sources of irritation or infection. Causes of rashes in babies include:
Even their own feces can irritate a baby’s skin and cause a rash. Viral and bacterial infections can also cause rashes.
Depending on the cause of the rash, almost any part of your baby’s body can be affected:
- diaper area
- skin folds
Some of the most common types of infant skin rashes include:
- baby acne, which usually appears on the face
- cradle cap
- diaper rash, which is caused by wetness or the acidity of a baby’s urine and feces
- drool rash, which happens when drool irritates the skin around the mouth or on the chest
- eczema, most commonly found on the face, behind the knees, and on the arms
- fifth disease, which is a “slapped cheek” rash that may be accompanied by fever, fatigue, and sore throat
- hand, foot, and mouth disease
- heat rash, usually found in areas covered by clothes, such as armpits, neck, chest, arms, torso, and legs and is caused by overheating
- infectious rashes, such as measles, chickenpox, scarlet fever, and roseola
- miliamolluscum contagiosum
Seek medical advice for a fever
Bring your child to a doctor if they’re experiencing a rash with a fever.
Diaper rash treatment
Diaper rash is one of the most common baby rashes. A diaper holds warmth and moisture close to the skin, and urine and feces may be acidic and very irritating to the skin. The best remedies for diaper rash include:
- frequent diaper changes
- wiping with a soft, wet cloth instead of pre-packaged wipes that contain alcohol and chemicals
- using a barrier cream, typically containing zinc oxide, which shouldn’t be wiped off of the skin with each diaper change or it can cause more irritation
- decreasing acidic foods, such as citrus and tomatoes, in your baby’s diet
- washing your hands before and after diaper changes so the rash doesn’t become infected
Eczema is another very common childhood rash. If you have a family history of eczema or sensitive skin, your baby is likely to be more prone to eczema.
It may be caused by allergies or skin sensitivities to food, laundry detergent, types of fabric, or other irritants. Helpful treatments for eczema include:
- keeping the area clean and dry
- over-the-counter creams and ointments
- oatmeal baths
- determining if there’s an allergy and eliminating the allergen
- working with a pediatric dermatologist to identify your baby’s triggers and how to best treat their eczema
Drool rash treatment
Drool rash and general facial rash is very common in babies. They’re developing salivary glands and teething, so it’s not uncommon for them to have drool on their face much of the time. Pacifier use, food particles, teeth growing in, and frequent face-wiping may also irritate the skin.
Drool rash typically resolves on its own in a matter of weeks, but there are some ways to help:
- pat — don’t scrub — your baby’s face to dry
- clean with warm water but avoid using soap on the face
- have your baby wear a drool bib so their shirt doesn’t become soaked
- be gentle when cleaning food off of the face
- avoid fragranced lotions on the face
- minimize pacifier use when possible
Some rashes, such as baby acne, go away by themselves in a matter of weeks or months. You shouldn’t use adult acne medication to treat baby acne.
Cradle cap can be treated with topical oil, such as coconut oil, gentle scrubbing with a cradle cap brush, and washing your baby’s head.
Infectious rashes such as thrush, measles, chickenpox, roseola, and scarlet fever should be evaluated by a pediatrician for the best treatment. These rashes are typically accompanied by a fever and other symptoms. They may require antibiotics or antiviral medication, or they may resolve on their own.
If your baby develops a rash accompanied by a fever or following a fever, it’s best to call your pediatrician. The cause may be infectious and you should have your child evaluated by a doctor.
Rash for a week
If your baby has a rash that persists for more than a week, doesn’t respond to home remedies, or is causing your baby pain or irritation, you should call your doctor.
If your baby develops widespread hives, especially around the mouth, or develops hives accompanied by coughing, vomiting, wheezing, or other respiratory symptoms you should go to the emergency room. This may be a sign of a very serious allergic reaction called anaphylaxis.
A rash accompanied by a very high fever, a stiff neck, sensitivity to light, neurological changes, or uncontrollable shaking may be caused by meningitis and is considered a medical emergency.
While rashes in babies are very common, there are some steps you can take to help prevent a rash. Preventive steps that some people try include:
- frequent diaper changes
- keeping skin clean and dry
- using irritant-free laundry detergent or detergent specially formulated for babies
- dressing your baby in breathable fabrics, such as cotton
- dressing your baby appropriately for the weather to avoid overheating
- keeping track of any skin reactions to foods so you can avoid trigger foods
- keeping your child up-to-date on vaccinations
- not letting strangers or anyone with symptoms of illness kiss your baby
- using lotions, shampoos, and soaps specifically designed for a baby’s sensitive skin
It can be alarming when your baby develops a rash, especially if they seem to be sick, itchy, or uncomfortable. It can also be difficult to determine the cause of the rash.
The good news is that rashes tend to be very treatable and aren’t usually serious. Many are even preventable and can be managed at home.
If you’re concerned about your child’s rash, or the rash is accompanied by a fever, call your pediatrician. They can help determine what is causing your baby’s rash and how to treat it.