Since little ones aren’t very good at verbalizing if (and how) they feel sick, oftentimes your job as a parent is to observe. One confusing symptom is red cheeks in a toddler. What could those cute, rosy cheeks mean?

In this article, we’ll talk about a few possible causes of your toddler’s red cheeks and what you can do about each one.

Possible Causes Of Red Cheeks In Your Toddler

We’ll discuss some potential causes of red cheeks, but keep in mind that there are lots of other reasons your little one’s cheeks might turn rosy.

For example, a good cry or being outside in crisp, cold weather can turn those kissable cheeks shades of pink or red.

However, if you have questions, concerns, or your parental instinct tells you something is up, it’s always a good idea to talk with your pediatrician. And if your child has a temperature or other symptoms in addition to rosy cheeks, definitely pick up the phone to speak with a doctor.

With that said, here are six common causes of red cheeks in toddlers.

Dry, Chapped Skin

Young boy out in the snow

Your toddler’s cheeks may turn red if their skin is dry and chapped. This irritation can be a bit itchy or painful.

What can cause dry and chapped skin? Cold and dry weather is certainly one potential cause. Think about what’s still exposed to the elements when you bundle your baby up for the cold: their sweet little face. This is why their lips and cheeks may become chapped more easily.

Plus, just like in adults, some skin is simply more susceptible to becoming dry and irritated. If your baby has eczema-prone skin, they definitely fall into that category.

Hint: If you’re wondering how to dress your little one to keep them warm but also avoid an eczema flare-up, check out our article here.

What You Can Do

If you have sensitive, dry skin yourself, you’ll know that chapped skin can be a bother, but it’s not typically a big problem. Keeping your toddler’s skin hydrated and moisturized usually does the trick.

Regularly apply a gentle and natural moisturizing cream to your toddler’s red cheeks. Just make sure that it’s designed for sensitive skin and won’t irritate your child’s skin even more.

We recommend our Soothing Moisturizing Face Cream. This fragrance-free formula protects and relieves your toddler’s skin and is specifically made for sensitive, rashy, or reactive skin. You can feel good about what you’re putting on your child, too!

Our hypoallergenic Soothing Moisturizing Face Cream is EWG Verified and composed of 97% natural ingredients, like Schisandra and Avocado Perseose®, a patented natural ingredient to help protect and hydrate your baby's delicate skin.

And there are no questionable ingredients, like parabens, phthalates, or phenoxyethanol.

Eczema

 Mom holding a red cheeks toddler

Eczema (atopic dermatitis) is another possible cause of red cheeks in a little one. Eczema can show up on most areas of the body, but babies often have eczema on their cheeks, forehead, and scalp.

In addition to being red, the skin can be itchy, dry, scaly, and bumpy. There’s no cure for eczema, and symptoms can come and go, but don’t despair — there are ways to help avoid flare-ups and make your little one as comfortable as possible.

What You Can Do

Part of caring for vulnerable, eczema-prone skin is helping restore the protective layer on the surface of the skin. This means moisturizing! But not with just any lotion.

Because gentle skin care is so important, here at Mustela, we’ve created a whole line of skincare products for little ones with eczema-prone skin.

To soothe the delicate skin on your baby’s face, apply Stelatopia Emollient Face Cream. Made with 97% naturally derived ingredients, this velvety cream is designed to relieve itching and discomfort and is gentle enough to use on the eyelids as well as newborn skin.

Rest assured that this lotion has been clinically tested under pediatric and dermatological control. In fact, all of our eczema care products are certified with the NEA (National Eczema Association) seal, fragrance-free, steroid-free, and made with natural ingredients.

Only the best for your little one!

With that being said, treating your child’s eczema goes much further than simply applying a cream. It also means bathing your toddler in such a way as to avoid flare-ups, choosing a baby sunscreen for eczema-prone skin, and monitoring the environment.

Read more about alternative and natural eczema treatments here.
 Two red cheeks toddlers playing in the bath

Fifth Disease

You may have never heard of fifth disease, but it can cause tell-tale red cheeks in toddlers. Fifth disease is a common virus among children.

Several days after your child is exposed to the virus (which happens easily at school, playdates, and the like), they’ll develop symptoms including fever, congestion, headache, and body aches like with the flu.

This is when your toddler is contagious and can get others sick. But what about the red cheeks? The red rash on your child’s face will look as though your little one has been slapped on the cheek. This is a tell-tale sign of fifth disease.

Strangely enough, once the redness shows up, your child is no longer contagious and can’t spread the virus. Another rash can appear later on other parts of your toddler’s body.

Note: Any time you believe your child may be sick, it’s always best to check in with their pediatrician and follow CDC guidelines.

What You Can Do

When your little one is sick with the flu-like symptoms of fifth disease, care for them as you would if your child had a cold or another virus. Lots of snuggles, healthy food, rest, and Tylenol (if it’s needed for their fever and approved by the doctor).

Once your child develops the rash, you may want to check in with your pediatrician. The slapped-cheek rash of Fifth disease could be confused with other illnesses or rashes. Otherwise, there’s not much you need to do.

Pro Parenting Tip: If your toddler is itchy, try an oatmeal bath to provide some relief.

Skin Infection

The human body is intricate and complex! As we mentioned, red cheeks can have various causes. Keep in mind that in general, red skin could indicate some type of skin infection.

We won’t get into details in this article, but it’s important to keep this possibility in mind.

What You Can Do

If you have any indication that your toddler’s red skin may be due to an infection, call your pediatrician.

Rosacea

Rosacea is quite uncommon in little ones since it typically develops much later in life. But this skin condition may run in the family, so if you or your partner has rosacea, it’s worth considering that your child’s flushing might be due to this condition as well.

Keep an eye out for other symptoms of rosacea, including red eyes, red and swollen eyelids, and styes or pinkeye.

What You Can Do

If you’re unsure about the origin of your toddler’s red cheeks, visit the dermatologist so they can check things out and rule out other conditions. Rosacea may be unlikely, but your doctor can help you get to the bottom of it.

Sunburn

Lastly, your toddler’s red cheeks could be the result of a little too much time in the sun. (Of course, that would probably mean another part of their body would be burnt as well.)

What You Can Do

Two kids with Mustela Sun products that help prevent a red cheeks toddler

If your little one has a sunburn, keep them out of the sun, offer them plenty of fluids, and give them a cool bath or lay a washcloth soaked in cool water on the affected skin.

That said, the best way to deal with sunburn is to avoid it in the first place! For little ones, we recommend applying a mineral sunscreen that will effectively protect them from the sun but also be oh-so-gentle on their skin.

Our SPF 50 Mineral Sunscreen Lotion offers fragrance-free sun protection that’s safe for the whole family! And because it’s certified by the National Eczema Association, that even includes those with the most sensitive skin.

This hydrating sunscreen is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes, made with 93% naturally derived ingredients, and formulated without chemical UV filters, parabens, phthalates, or phenoxyethanol.

It’s compliant with Hawaii’s sunscreen ingredient requirements and considered reef-safe, too! Good for your kids and good for the earth.

Read more about preventing and treating toddler sunburn here.

Treat Red Cheeks With Lots Of Kisses And Care

Mom kissing her sons cheek

We can’t tell you exactly what is causing red cheeks in your toddler. But we hope that the information in this article has helped you identify potential factors.

As we mentioned, be sure to contact your pediatrician if the redness persists since red cheeks can be the result of a variety of conditions.

Regardless, treat your child’s delicate skin with care, and use gentle, natural products, like our Soothing Moisturizing Face Cream, Stelatopia Emollient Face Cream, or SPF 50 Mineral Sunscreen Lotion.

No matter the skin condition, non-irritating skincare products can go a long way toward keeping your baby’s skin healthy. And, most importantly, don’t forget to plant lots of kisses on those sweet cheeks!