Baby Rashes: Causes & Treatment

We all know babies are pretty delicate beings and no wonder! Their body is still in active development, making it easily susceptible to irritations. Having this in mind, it’s not surprising that skin inflammations are a common occurrence in a baby’s early life; in fact, it’s one of the most common reasons why parents with small children go to the doctor. Most of the time baby rashes don’t point to a dangerous or more serious condition, although there are times when they do and one needs to always pay attention to certain signs. Some of the signs and behavior that a parent should be wary of include:


All of these can be signs of meningitis or other serious diseases so you should be on the lookout when noticing a rash on your little one.

Nevertheless, the causes are usually much less serious than this – if your child is in generally good health and doesn’t show any other symptoms, you can just observe the rash yourself and see if it passes on its own (some baby rashes disappear without treatment). Causes can be many and often one type of rash may actually have several different causes: it may have to do with food and allergies (usually manifested as hives), it might have to do with some surfaces or materials that the baby has been in contact with, as well as some plants, pets, chemicals, and of course one of the most common among them, diaper irritation that turns into diaper rash.

What we’ll try to do in this guide is to look at some pretty common types of baby rashes, their causes as well as possible treatments.  

Hives 


Hives are probably the most common rash that stems from an allergic reaction both in babies and adults - and it’s also one of the easiest to identify. It manifests as raised bumps or ridges on the skin which are circular in shape with a pale center, ranging from a quarter inch to three inches in diameter. They’re very similar to mosquito bites and are just as itchy (the itchiness is actually one of the most telling signs of hives). Hives can be caused by various allergic reactions to food and medicine, but also insect bites and stings, pollen, soaps, as well as certain viral infections. The rash can emerge on the various parts of the body and usually lasts three to four days before it disappears - and it usually disappears on its own. Another sub-type of hives are localized hives, which can be indicators of direct skin contact with a substance that your baby doesn’t tolerate.

Even though in most cases hives will go away on their own, if you want to ease your baby’s  symptoms you can use over-the-counter antihistamines of the likes of Benadryl, for example. You can also try a topical cortisone cream that will help with the itching part, as well as cold compression on the affected areas.

Eczema


Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition, said to affect around 15 percent of infants. It usually causes red, swollen, scaly, dry and itchy patches on your baby’s skin. It can show up on different parts of the body – the face, the elbows, the chest, the knees, the legs as well as the arms. Even though it’s a chronic condition, eczema will most likely disappear before adulthood – it can be mild or severe in nature, and its symptoms may come and go. 

Eczema is thought to run in families with a history of allergies (such as asthma or hay fever). While the exact cause of eczema is not entirely known, a number of factors can act as triggers, such as weather, food, certain environmental allergens (dust for example), irritant and scratchy clothing, as well as pet shedding. Eczema, however, is not contagious and cannot be passed between people. 

The usual treatment for eczema consists of avoiding what’s irritating the skin, as well as moisturizing it without using too much soap because it strips the skin of its natural moisturizing oils. When the eczema is less severe, moisturizing creams or similar ointments applied every day might help in keeping it from flaring up. But when it gets significantly more inflamed a good idea might be to use topical steroid ointments for a short period of time. Sometimes doctors can prescribe antihistamines or oral steroids, especially if the condition doesn’t improve with time. It’s always useful to know if certain allergies are triggering the eczema rash, so it’s good to have your child allergy tested at some point.

Diaper Rash


This is another common pesky skin rash that occurs around the area of the baby’s diaper. It usually manifests as red, moist, irritated skin, which can cause small openings in the skin allowing for bacteria and fungi to enter and potentially cause a secondary infection making the rash worse. Causes are various, stemming from allergic reactions or stress, while the most common is that the baby’s sensitive skin doesn’t get enough air or the diaper hasn’t been changed in time allowing for the bacteria from the stool and urine to thrive and irritate the skin.

That’s why in order to prevent diaper rash it’s recommended that you change the baby’s diaper as often as necessary, around 8-10 times a day. It’s also good to wash the area of the baby’s bottom after each changing and let it air-dry, but also use moisturizer so the skin doesn’t get too dry.

How can you treat diaper rash? Any quality diaper rash cream will do, especially if it’s on the natural side so it doesn’t irritate your baby’s skin even further. Alternatively, you can try home remedies and adopt good diaper-changing practices, something we explain in detail in our diaper rash treatment guide

Scabies


Scabies are caused by very small insect-like creatures called mites that burrow into the skin and cause itchy rashes with tiny spots. They can go between the fingers or the armpit, as well as the wrist area, but also the palms and the soles of the feet, especially in babies. Because scabies are so itchy, they can cause additional sores and blisters, and with that a possibility of secondary bacterial infection.hey’re pretty contagious so the faster you identify them the better it is for your baby and everyone around. 

For treatment you can usually ask for a cream or lotion from your local pharmacist; take in mind that in case of scabies every person in the household needs to be treated at the same time regardless whether they have the symptoms or not.

Hand-Food-Mouth Disease


This is caused by a viral infection, the coxsackievirus, which causes little blisters in or on the mouth, the fingers or the hands and the feet (hence the name). It usually develops in children younger than 4 years, who have somehow had contact with contaminated poop. The disease usually lasts a couple of days, followed by fever and difficulty in eating because of the blisters.

The best prevention is, of course, good hygiene; what you can do to ease the symptoms and reduce the fever are over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen. A one-to-one mixture of Benadryl and Maalox to swish and spit helps numb the pain in the mouth before eating.  Because the body rash doesn’t itch, topical treatments are not really necessary, nor will they shorten its course. 

Acne


Babies can also develop acne, similar to the adult ones but not as progressive. The so-called ‘neonatal’ acne appear as small bumps on the baby’s skin, either one or two on a wider area or a larger number over a smaller area of the face. They’re usually caused by exposure to hormones from the womb and also maybe from the mother’s milk. But this should not be a cause of concern (nor a reason to stop breastfeeding!) because they will usually disappear on their own.

If you still want to use something on them, you can try a gentle cleansing product; don’t use any oily creams or lotions on your baby’s face though.

Prickly Heat

Also commonly known as heat rash, it’s a skin irritation caused by the excess of heat, showing up on areas of the body that are susceptible to overheating and sweating. The heat rash can be confused with acne because they have a similar form of small red bumps. Parts of the baby’s body such as armpits, the neck as well as the diaper area are most prone to this kind of rash. 

A natural remedy for the prickly heat would be the calamine lotion which works by cooling the skin. Other stuff that you can use are topical steroids, anhydrous lanoline, and dressing your baby in loose-fitting clothing. You should also avoid products that contain petroleum or mineral oil.

Milia


These are harmless small white bumps that form on the baby’s nose and face and are caused by blocked oil glands in your baby’s skin. They’re no cause for concern, though, and they will clear up on their own after a few weeks as soon as your baby’s oil glands start growing and their pores open up. 

While this list of baby rashes is by no means exhaustive, we tried to list the most common ones hoping it will help ease your mind a little bit the next time you notice a change on your baby’s skin. 

Nevertheless, always have in mind that you should consult with your doctor if you think your baby’s body manifests something out of the ordinary that’s not getting better after a few days or a week.