When you first notice a rash on your baby’s skin, your thoughts immediately leap to the worst possible causes. But often, the rash you see is just a normal part of being a newborn. So before you begin to panic, let the experts at Mustela calm your nerves and show you the best way to treat your baby’s skin rash.
1) Identify The Rash
The first step in treating your baby’s rash is identification. Rashes come in all shapes and sizes, but putting a name to the irritation tells you a lot about how to deal with it.
Here are some of the most common rashes for newborns and infants. After we describe the rashes, we’ll talk more about how to treat them.
Neonatal acne looks like small red bumps on your baby’s skin. It’s similar to adult acne, but it doesn’t usually progress to the whitehead or blackhead stages. Baby acne can take the form of just one or two bumps over a wide area, or it can present as a large number of bumps in a small area.
Baby acne is thought to be the result of exposure to maternal hormones in the womb (and possibly through breastfeeding). Don’t let that change your breastfeeding habits, though. As you’ll see in the treatment section, baby acne will work itself out.
For a more detailed discussion about baby acne, be sure to check out our article How To Treat & Prevent Baby Acne.
Dry, Flaky Or Peeling Skin
Dry, flaky or peeling skin is very common in newborns and infants. This type of rash looks similar to dry, flaky skin in children and adults.
If your baby’s skin is extra dry, it can become irritated and turn red, swollen, and warm to the touch. Dry skin can manifest during the first year of your baby’s life and any time thereafter, depending on their skin type and environment.
Milia are small white bumps on your baby’s nose and face that look similar to the whitehead acne that forms on children and adults. Milia are caused by blocked oil glands deep within your baby’s skin.
At first, those bumps may persist despite your best efforts. Don’t worry. As your baby’s oil glands grow and their pores open over the first few days and weeks of life, the white bumps will be easier to treat.
Cradle cap can develop after the first month or two of your baby’s life. It manifests as red, irritated skin with a greasy, yellowish crust on top. While it most often forms on a baby’s scalp (which is why it’s referred to as a “cap”), it can also appear on or spread to your little one’s face, neck, armpits, and ears.
Eczema looks like red, swollen, itchy patches on your baby’s skin. Depending on your little one’s age, it can appear on their chest, legs, knees, arms, elbows, and face. Eczema is caused by a thin, or nonexistent, protective layer (hydrolipidic barrier) on your baby’s skin. This results in dry, sensitive skin that reacts to environmental triggers like dust, scratchy clothing, and pet dander.
Prickly heat, also known as heat rash, looks like small red bumps and can be easily confused with baby acne. Prickly heat, though, develops on areas of your baby’s body that are prone to overheating and sweating. Parts of the body like his neck, armpits, and diaper area are prime candidates for prickly heat.
Diaper rash is the general term for any skin irritation that develops in your baby’s diaper area. Causes can vary from allergic reactions to skin infections to stress (like during teething), but the most common cause is simply your baby’s sensitive skin not getting enough air.
Hives are relatively easy to identify because it’s the only baby skin rash that causes red welts on the surface of your baby’s skin. Hives often look similar to mosquito bites: red or pink raised bumps, sometimes with a white-ish center.
Your little one’s hives can range in size from a quarter-inch all the way up to three inches in diameter. Hives are normally circular in shape, but they may also be ovals.
Sunburn is one skin condition that doesn’t need much of an introduction! We are all familiar with sunburn. But it’s worth noting that newborns and young infants are especially sensitive to the sun’s UV rays. That’s why it’s so important to keep your little one protected from the sun.
This is in no way an exhaustive list of skin rashes that can affect your little one. If you have any questions or concerns about a rash that has formed on your baby’s body, always consult a physician.
If the rash forms without other symptoms (see the last section for details), you can usually treat your baby at home. If the rash persists for more than a week despite treatment, see a doctor. You may need a stronger remedy.
Now let’s turn our attention back to the best ways to treat your baby’s skin rash.
2) Keep Your Baby Comfortable
Keeping your baby comfortable is an important step on the road to rash prevention and recovery. Tight, red, swollen, and itchy skin can make your baby (and you) unhappy and make it difficult for them to sleep and feed.
Here are some effective tips for keeping your little one comfortable while you treat their baby skin rash.
Dress Your Baby In Loose Clothing
When a rash forms on your baby’s torso (below the neck), it’s a good idea to dress him in loose-fitting clothing (or no clothing at all if the temperature allows it). This will keep the clothing from rubbing the already tender skin and can keep your baby from getting further overheated.
Avoid Irritating Your Baby’s Skin Rash
This may seem somewhat obvious, but your baby will be much more comfortable if you don’t irritate their skin rash. How can you avoid bothering your little one’s rash? Follow these tips:
- Keep your baby out of direct sunlight, as the sun’s UV rays can cause dryness and further irritate the rash.
- Be extremely gentle with the affected area of your baby’s skin, and don’t rub, stretch, or scratch the rash itself.
- Always use gentle cleansers when bathing your baby, and apply baby-friendly soothing creams and lotions to keep your little one’s skin moisturized.
These three basic steps will go a long way toward keeping your baby comfortable while they recover from their skin rash.
Give Your Baby A Warm Bath
Another great way to keep your baby comfortable during a rash outbreak is to let him soak or play in the tub. The water will soothe and cool hot, dry skin. You can even help the rash heal by adding a bath product like Mustela’s Stelatopia Bath Oil. These specially-formulated oils soothe and cool tight, swollen skin and make your baby feel good all over.
Apply A Cool Cloth To Your Baby’s Skin Rash
Rashes often cause your baby’s skin to feel dry, tight, itchy, or hot. That’s why applying a cool, damp cloth to your baby’s skin rash will comfort your little one. All you need to do is find a washcloth or rag, soak it in cold water, wring it out, and gently place it on your baby’s rash. This will provide instant, if only temporary, relief from the discomfort of the rash.
Give Your Baby A Small Dose Of Pain Relievers
For babies at the six-month mark or beyond, a tiny dose of ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help reduce the swelling of the baby rash and relieve pain. Ibuprofen is generally safe for children six months or older.
Acetaminophen has the same safety recommendation, except it can sometimes be approved for babies younger than six months. You should always consult your doctor before giving any medicines to your baby.
Give Your Baby Plenty Of Hugs And Kisses
This may not help your baby’s rash go away, but it will certainly make your little one feel more comfortable! There’s nothing that soothes a baby’s spirit quite like a mother’s touch. Hold your baby often and give them extra hugs and kisses to keep them comfy until the rash heals.
3) Treat The Rash
Here are some suggestions for treating the most common newborn and infant rashes.
Treating Baby Acne
As your baby’s body processes out, or gets used to, the maternal hormones that can cause acne, his rash will slowly fade away. But this can take weeks, and even months. Keep your baby’s skin clean and healthy using products like those offered by Mustela. We recommend:
These gentle products will keep irritated skin clean without irritating it further.
Treating Dry, Flaky Or Peeling Baby Skin
Dry skin is caused by a lack of moisture in your baby’s skin. The best thing you can do for this type of rash is to apply a hydrating cream with cold cream. We recommend Mustela’s Nourishing Cream with Cold Cream or Nourishing Lotion with Cold Cream. These healing products will keep dry, flaking skin from getting further irritated and infected.
Treating Baby Milia
As your baby’s body becomes accustomed to its new environment outside the womb, his skin will balance and normalize. This will often cause milia to clear up on its own. But you can prevent those white bumps from sticking around longer than they should by keeping your baby’s skin clean.
It would be great if he could spend all day in the bathtub, but that just isn’t possible. Instead, we suggest periodically using Mustela’s No-Rinse Soothing Cleansing Water. The gentle cleanser will soothe and disinfect your baby’s skin to help prevent more milia from forming.
Treating Cradle Cap
For an extensive discussion on cradle cap, see our article The 7 Best Ways To Prevent & Treat Cradle Cap. To treat this common skin condition, shampoo your baby’s scalp two or three times a week with products formulated to treat and prevent cradle cap, like Mustela’s Foam Shampoo For Newborns.
Treating Baby Eczema
The best treatment for baby eczema involves applying an emollient product like Mustela’s Stelatopia Emollient Cream or Emollient Balm a few times a day. Emollients form a protective layer over your baby’s skin to keep triggers from causing a breakout. To prevent skin irritation during bath time, we recommend adding a few drops of Stelatopia Bath Oil to the water.
Treating Prickly Heat
Prickly heat will often clear up on its own if you keep your baby’s skin cool. You can assist the healing process by bathing your child in cool water and patting his skin dry with a soft towel. The itchiness that results from prickly heat will most often be relieved once your baby’s skin cools down.
Treating Diaper Rash
Treatment for diaper rash involves keeping your baby’s skin dry and allowing it to breathe. That may mean going without clothes, or even a diaper, for a while.
As hives are normally the result of an allergic reaction, the best thing you can do to treat your baby’s hives is to identify the allergen that caused the hives. This is often difficult, as your baby is young and being exposed to new allergens all the time. But it’s still worth a shot!
Here are some allergens that may be causing your baby’s hives:
- A new skincare product, like a new body wash, shampoo, or lotion
- A food or drink that you’ve recently introduced to your baby’s diet
- Dander or hair from a household pet
- Pollen from a nearby grass, bush, tree, or flower
- A bite from an insect
If you’re able to identify the hive-causing culprit, eliminate it from your baby’s environment. If you’re not able to find out which allergen is causing your baby’s hives, simply keep your baby comfortable, administer small doses of antihistamine, and wait for the hives to go away.
In severe cases of hives, especially if your baby is wheezing or seems to have a hard time breathing, go to the nearest hospital ASAP.
Treating your baby’s sunburn isn’t too different from how you would treat your own sunburn. First, keep your baby out of the sun and keep their skin covered with soft, loose-fitting clothing. Apply soothing ointments, such as an aloe vera gel or Mustela’s After Sun Lotion.
Keep your baby as comfortable as possible. This means cool baths, gentle cleansers, cold compresses, and soothing lotions. Finally, simply give the sunburn time to heal.
4) Consult A Doctor If…
Your Baby Is Struggling To Breathe
It is always a possibility that your baby’s skin rash is the result of an allergic reaction. Sometimes, allergic reactions can be severe. This severe variety of allergic reaction is called anaphylactic shock and can be life-threatening, requiring immediate medical attention.
If your baby is ever wheezing, struggling to inhale, or otherwise having trouble breathing, go to the nearest hospital immediately.
The Rash Occurs In Association With Other Symptoms
Such symptoms include:
- Reduced appetite.
If you notice a rash erupt on your baby’s body and he exhibits one or more of the above symptoms, it could be a sign that there’s a larger problem at hand. Take your baby to the doctor as soon as possible.
If the rash appears by itself and does not come with any other symptoms, it’s likely just a rash. However, that doesn’t mean that you can disregard it completely. Keep an eye on the rash size, shape, and intensity, and see a doctor if it continues to spread despite treatment.
The Rash Develops Blisters Or Begins To Look Infected
Be on the lookout for any signs of infection including:
- Opaque, yellowish fluid seepage.
- Bleeding or dried blood.
- Small, bright red or purple dots (petechiae) on top of the rash.
These can be an indication of a more serious viral or bacterial infection such as herpes. If any of these symptoms develop on your baby’s body, see a doctor as soon as possible.
The Rash Suddenly Appears All Over Your Baby’s Body
If your baby’s skin rash appears very suddenly and is present all over your baby’s body, it’s best to consult a physician. This may be a sign of a severe allergic reaction or a baby skin rash that needs medical attention.
Skin rashes on your baby can be scary, but we’ve got you covered. Simply follow the steps listed above to keep your baby happy, healthy, and comfortable.