From time to time, you may see a rash forming on your baby’s delicate skin. Find out what some of the most common rashes are in newborns and babies, and learn what you can do to treat them.

Although rashes aren’t something that can be completely prevented, there are some things you can do to help reduce the risk of certain rashes occurring. We’ll cover all this and more in this article, so read on!

What Is a Rash?

A rash is a swelling or irritation of the skin making the skin appear red, bumpy, lumpy, or scaly. A rash can be itchy and sometimes is accompanied by a fever. Keep in mind that a rash can also be a sign of an allergic reaction, which may need immediate medical attention.

In this article, we’ll cover the most common rashes affecting babies. However, not all rashes are listed, so contact your baby’s healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns about your baby's skin.

What Can Cause Baby Rashes?

Rashes can be caused by a number of things, including:

  • Insects and insect bites

  • Allergies

  • Bacteria

  • Fungi

  • Viruses

  • Heat

  • Moisture

  • Irritation

  • Friction

  • Saliva.

What Are the Most Common Rashes in Newborns and Babies?

In this section, we describe some of the more common rashes and skin conditions involving rashes in newborns and babies:

Diaper Rash

What does diaper rash look like? Diaper rash is a red rash, sometimes with bumps, that can develop on your baby’s diaper area. Affected areas can include the lower abdomen, bottom, genitals, and folds of the thighs.

What causes diaper rash? Diaper rash can be triggered by wet or soiled diapers being left on for too long, or wearing a diaper that's too small. Diaper rash may also be a reaction to something in a new product you've started using, such as a new detergent for washing your baby’s cloth diapers or a new brand of diapers or wipes. Introducing new foods to your baby’s diet is another potential cause of diaper rash, as what’s in your baby’s stools, and increased frequency of bowel movements (which often occurs when new foods are introduced), can be irritating. Bacterial and yeast infections can also lead to diaper rash.

Treatment: Diaper rash typically clears up in three to four days if what’s causing the rash is alleviated. To prevent or help clear diaper rash, change the wet or soiled diaper as soon as possible. Cleanse your baby’s diaper area with wipes or a washcloth and water, and expose your baby’s bottom to air whenever possible. You can also use diaper rash cream to create a barrier from moisture. Contact your baby’s healthcare provider if the rash is accompanied by a fever, if the rash doesn’t get better after a few days of trying the treatment methods mentioned above, or if the rash looks particularly bad.

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Eczema

What does eczema look like? When your baby has eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis,] you may notice dry, scaly skin with red patches on her face, the insides of the elbows, or behind the knees. This condition can sometimes appear after your baby's first month. In infants, eczema is more likely to appear on the body than the face. The patches of rash can be mild to very itchy, and this can be irritating for your baby.

What causes eczema? Genetic and environmental factors play a role in eczema. Some children inherit dry, sensitive skin from one of their parents, for example. Skin allergies may be a contributing factor. Eczema could also be linked to the way your baby’s immune system responds to certain irritants in her environment, such as pollen.

Treatment: If you suspect your baby has eczema, pay a visit to her healthcare provider, who may prescribe a prescription ointment or an over-the-counter cream. To help treat eczema or prevent it from reoccurring, make sure to use mild, unscented soaps and laundry detergents, dress your baby in soft clothing, and bathe her no more than three times per week.

Drool Rash

What does drool rash look like? Drool rash, also called lip licker’s contact dermatitis, is a form of eczema in which your baby’s saliva can irritate her skin and lips, creating a rash around her mouth.

What causes drool rash? Saliva from excessive drooling can cause this rash. This type of rash may happen when your baby is drooling a lot because of teething, for example. This is why it’s sometimes called a teething rash.

Treatment: Wipe your baby’s face often if she’s drooling a lot. You might like to use an absorbent bib that’s changed frequently to help keep the area clean and dry; applying a barrier ointment such as petroleum jelly can also help. If the rash is uncomfortable for your baby, a cold compress may help relieve some of the tenderness. If the drool rash is severe, if it’s oozing, or if it doesn’t go away, consult your healthcare provider for recommendations.

Food Allergy Rash

What does a food allergy rash look like? A skin rash, such as hives, along with vomiting and diarrhea, are potential symptoms of a food allergy.

What causes a food allergy rash? As the name suggests, the rash may develop if your baby is allergic to a certain food. Treatment: If you are noticing any of the above symptoms, eliminate the food you believe caused the allergic reaction, and consult your baby’s healthcare provider at your next visit. When you’re starting your baby on solids, it’s a good idea to try one food at a time for three to five days to rule out any food allergies.

Erythema Toxicum

What does erythema toxicum look like? With this common rash, often called E tox, your baby could have multiple red splotches with yellowish-white bumps. This type of rash appears in the first few days after your baby is born. What causes erythema toxicum? The exact cause of this rash is unknown. Treatment: The rash clears up on its own in about a week, though you may notice that it briefly goes away and then flares up again before clearing for good.

Baby Acne

What does baby acne look like? Small red or white bumps might develop on your newborn’s face, usually on his cheeks, nose, and forehead. It can also appear on your baby’s back and chest. It can show up between two to four weeks after birth. What causes baby acne? The cause of baby acne is unknown. Treatment: Baby acne can’t be prevented, but it eventually goes away on its own without leaving scars. What you can do in the meantime is avoid using lotions and oils on your baby’s skin, and gently clean your newborn’s skin with water and mild baby soap.

Milia

What do milia look like? These are tiny white bumps or yellow spots that can show up on your newborn baby’s face, namely the cheeks, chin, or the tip of his nose. What causes milia? Skin flakes become trapped under the skin, causing this rash. Treatment: Milia do not require specific treatment other than simple skin care. Avoid scrubbing or picking at the skin. Gently wash your baby’s face once a day with warm water and baby soap. The bumps usually disappear within the first two to three weeks of your baby’s life. In the meantime avoid putting lotions or oils on the affected area.

Miliaria

What does miliaria look like? You may see small red bumps or sweat blisters in the folds of his skin. What causes miliaria? Also known as heat rash or prickly heat, miliaria typically happens in hot and humid climates, or if your baby is overheated from being overdressed. Treatment: These bumps usually go away in a few days.

Cradle Cap

What does cradle look like? Technically known as seborrheic dermatitis, cradle cap can show up as scaly patches on your baby’s scalp in the first few weeks of his life. It can also appear elsewhere, such as on your baby’s neck, armpits, behind his ears, or even around the diaper area. What causes cradle cap? It’s not known exactly. It could be the production of too much oil (sebum) in the oil glands and hair follicles, trapping dead skin cells. Another contributor may be a yeast (fungus) called Malassezia that grows in the sebum along with bacteria. Treatment: If the condition is present on your baby’s scalp, washing his hair and softly brushing out the scales can help control the condition. Sometimes you may need a special shampoo prescribed by your baby’s healthcare provider to help clear it up. Cradle cap typically goes away within a few months .

Scabies

What does scabies look like? Both infants and older babies can get scabies, but it will look different. With an infant, the fluid-filled bumps will be sparse and often limited to the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. With older babies, you may see the bumps next to reddish burrow tracks. What causes scabies? The scabies rash is caused by microscopic mites that burrow into the skin, laying their eggs. The rash typically develops within about two to four weeks of the tiny mites laying their eggs. Treatment: If you think your baby may have scabies, take him to his healthcare provider, who may gently scrape his skin to take a sample for testing. If the skin tests positive, the provider will prescribe a medication, usually in the form of a lotion that needs to be applied to the entire body. Since scabies is easily spread, your little one’s healthcare provider may recommend the entire family be treated.

Hives

What do hives look like? This itchy rash can be red and bumpy or can appear as welts with pale centers. The rash may even look like bug bites. Hives can crop up in just one area or all over your baby’s body, and may even change locations from one hour to the next. What causes hives? Hives can be a symptom of

  • a virus

  • a food allergy, for example as an allergic reaction to peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, dairy, or shellfish

  • an allergic reaction to an over-the-counter or prescription medication

  • an allergic reaction to something your baby has touched, like soaps or plants

  • an insect bite or bee sting.

Treatment: Hives can be treated using an over-the-counter antihistamine, which can help reduce any itching. A cool compress may also help comfort the affected area. If your baby is having trouble swallowing or is wheezing, seek immediate emergency care, as he may be having an anaphylactic reaction.

Impetigo

What does impetigo look like? The round red rash associated with this contagious infection typically appears on the nose, mouth, and ears. Impetigo is contagious for as long as there is a rash, which sometimes forms blisters and eventually crusts over. During this time, your baby should avoid contact with other children, and you should avoid touching the rash to help prevent the spread of the infection. What causes impetigo? It can be caused by staphylococcal or streptococcal bacteria. The bacteria can enter the skin via a cut or an insect bite, but sometimes the infection can form on otherwise healthy skin. Treatment: Your baby will need antibiotics to treat the infection, and your baby’s healthcare provider will order a test to find out which bacteria caused the infection to decide on the right course of treatment.

Ringworm

What does ringworm look like? The rash consists of red scaly patches that are oval or round. If the rash appears on your baby’s scalp, he may temporarily lose hair in that area. Ringworm can sometimes be confused with dandruff or cradle cap. If your baby is over 12 months old and has a scaly rash on his scalp, it’s more likely caused by ringworm rather than cradle cap. Your baby’s healthcare provider can make an accurate diagnosis. What causes ringworm? Although the name would suggest worms cause this infection, they do not. In fact, a fungus causes ringworm to appear, either on your baby’s scalp or elsewhere on his body. The infection can be spread from person to person or even from animals to people. Ensure your baby’s combs, brushes, hair clips, or hats are not shared with others in the household if your little one has ringworm. Treatment: If you suspect your baby has ringworm, take him to his healthcare provider, who will either prescribe a cream or recommend an over-the-counter cream. By following your provider’s directions, ringworm should start to clear up in about a week.

Roseola

What does roseola look like? The symptoms of roseola, a contagious viral infection, include a pink rash that may appear on your baby’s trunk and sometimes on his arms and neck. The rash follows a fever and cold/flu-like symptoms. Roseola is most common in children who are under the age of 2. It takes about 10 days for the initial symptoms to show up after the point of infection. What causes roseola? Roseola is caused by a virus. Treatment: If your baby has a fever of 102 degrees Fahrenheit or higher lasting for 24 hours, contact his healthcare provider right away for advice on how to bring down the fever. Your baby’s healthcare provider may also recommend some tests like a blood count or urine analysis to help make a diagnosis. When your little one has the fever, it’s best to keep him away from other children to prevent the spread of the infection.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

  • Heat rash looks like small red bumps or sweat blisters. It typically appears in the folds of your baby’s skin.

  • A viral rash is a rash that is a symptom of a viral infection. The rash caused by roseola is an example of a viral rash.

  • The treatment will depend on what has caused the rash. It’s best to check with your baby’s healthcare provider, who can diagnose the rash and recommend treatment. Treatment of a rash may include prescription or over-the-counter medication in the form of creams or ointments.

  • It’s best to take your baby to his healthcare provider for a diagnosis of the underlying cause of the rash and to find out what treatment is needed, if any.

The Bottom Line

Seeing a rash on your baby’s skin can be worrisome, especially if it’s accompanied by other symptoms. Figuring out what may have caused the rash isn’t always so simple. That’s why it’s a good idea to check with your baby’s healthcare provider, who can diagnose the rash and suggest the most effective treatment. Soon enough, your little one’s skin will be smooth and kissable and you can get back to entertaining your baby by blowing raspberries on his healthy skin!

How we wrote this article The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.