As a new parent, it’s natural to worry over rashes and marks that might appear on your baby’s skin. But you’d needn’t panic! Rashes are very common in newborns since their skin is new and their immune systems are still developing. That soft skin is sensitive and rapidly growing, which makes it vulnerable to irritation and rashes.
If you’re unsure of the severity of your baby’s rash, it’s best to get medical assistance. Most of these won’t require any treatment, but they might cause you some anxiety. Rashes in childhood could also have root in a genetic pre-disposition such as eczema, which you might be able to identify from a rash. This guide can help you recognise some of the most common rashes you can expect to see, and when to seek medical treatment.
Common Causes of Rashes
As your baby begins to explore the world around them, they can encounter all kinds of things that might cause irritation. These include:
Heat and sweat
Allergies and dust
Chemicals and cleaning products
Fragrances in cosmetic and hygiene products
Fabrics and detergent
Faeces and wet nappies
Genetic skin conditions
As upsetting as it might be to see your baby suffering from a rash, there are so many causes for marks on growing skin. Be cautious, but try not to fret too much.
Types of Baby Rash
The most frequent rashes seen in new-borns include:
This is usually seen on the baby’s face, but can also appear on the body. It’s common, and occurs in around 20 percent of newborns.
Symptoms: Red bumps or pimples on the skin, similar to adult acne.
Cause: It’s thought to be caused from increased hormones in the infant or from the mother.
Treatments: Baby acne will usually disappear without need for treatment, but if it lingers past a few months, you can ask a paediatrician for medicated cream.
Cradle cap is a harmless rash that appears in a baby’s head. Again, it’s common and should clear up on its own.
Symptoms: Cradle capcauses patches of crusted skin on top of the head. It can also appear on other parts of the body including face and nappy area.
Cause: The cause isn’t fully clear, but it isn’t known to be infectious.
Treatment: You can use baby shampoo to wash the head and use a soft brush to gently loosen skin flakes. Oils such as baby or vegetable oil can also help to soften the area overnight, which you can shampoo off in the morning. Don’t use adult shampoo or soap for this as it may be harsh on baby skin.
This comes from the wetness or acidity of a dirty nappy and affects up to a third of babies. It’s usually more common in babies or toddlers rather than newborns.
Symptoms: Red patches of skin around the nappy area, occasionally with blister or sores.
Cause: Nappy rash can be caused by a baby being left in a dirty nappy without changing. It can also appear from chemicals used in soaps, bubble baths, or alcohol-based baby wipes.
Treatment: The best treatment for nappy rash is prevention. Be sure to change your baby’s nappy regularly.
To help treat a rash, you can apply a layer of cream to act as a barrier when you put on a new nappy. If you keep the baby clean and happy, nappy rash should clear up within 3 days.
This happens when saliva irritates the skin around the mouth or on the chest. Babies will often dribble even when not teething, and a rash can form if it’s not cleaned off.
Symptoms: Drool rash is typically seen as patches of skin with red bumps, which may be flaking.
Cause: Saliva left on the skin or a dummy that keeps the mouth wet.
Treatments: Keep a cloth to hand to wipe off any dribble and consider using a bib at meal times. Wash the rash area carefully and apply a thin coat of healing ointment such as Vaseline.
Baby eczema is most commonly found on the face, the back of the knees, and the arms. This is a genetic predisposition and will appear on its own, but many infants will grow out of it.
Symptoms: Patches of dry, irritated skin. This may be red on lighter skin, or purplish brown on darker skin.
Cause: Inherited from parents genetically, but can be worsened by heat, sweat, and irritants.
Treatments: Eczema may go away on its own over time, but you can lessen the symptoms at home. Moisturisers with ceramides work well when applied after a bath. Make sure not to irritate the skin with scented and chemical heavy soaps or tight clothing.
Heat rash is usually found in areas that clothes cover up and overheat. This can be armpits, neck, torso and chest, arms, and legs. It’s more common in babies than in adults as our bodies have more developed systems of heat regulation.
Symptoms: Tiny red bumps or spots that may itch. They may also appear as blisters.
Cause: It’s usually caused by heat from clothing causing the baby to sweat, which blocks the sweat ducts. The trapped perspiration then causes an irritated rash.
Treatments: It will usually clear up on its own after a few days. To treat irritations, you can apply a cool compress of a damp flannel or ice pack. You can also give a cooling bath.
These include measles, chickenpox, scarlet fever, and roseola. They share the ability to spread to others. They are less common but can potentially be more harmful so be sure to carefully monitor the baby’s health.
Symptoms: these may be accompanied by symptoms other than a skin rash, such as a fever or cough. They are spread through mucus and saliva.
Cause: These are viral rashes that are contracted from contact with someone infected.
Treatments: Whilst these may clear up on their own, see a doctor if the rash is causing pain, concerning symptoms, or if it doesn’t turn lighter when you apply pressure to it. Try gently pressing the bottom of a glass cup to the area and observing the colour of the skin.
Better Safe Than Sorry!
If you’re in need of more info for your baby’s rash, you can consult the NHS website for some good advice or become a member and make the most of our midwife chat service. Whilst it’s very common for a newborn to develop a rash, you should always take caution and seek medical assistance if you have concern. However, it’s more likely that the rash will be harmless and eventually go away without needing treatment.
Prevention is always the best treatment, so be sure to keep your baby away from irritants such as harsh products and chemicals, excess moisture, and heat. This should help to keep that soft bouncy baby skin as fresh as a daisy!
If you’re in need of more advice, click here to explore more of our blog posts on childcare and pregnancy. You can also chat to a midwife on our Facebook page.