You generally know what to do about your own skin conditions, but you might be less certain when it comes to your baby’s skin issues. While your adult skin has had time to adapt to environmental conditions, your baby’s skin is extremely sensitive. Things like heat and bacteria can affect it, and knowing how to identify what’s wrong (and what to do about it) is your best bet for peace of mind and resolve the problem quickly.
“Some conditions will clear up on their own, but others will require things like creams, ointments or even topical steroids,” says Dr. Lauren Snitzer of U.S. Dermatology Partners Sugar Land. “Learning pediatric skin care and the difference between a condition that is temporary and one that needs medical intervention is important for every parent.”
She says it’s also important to be able to identify what might be causing the condition to be able to avoid future bouts of it.
“It’s good for all parents — but especially new parents — to keep in mind that some rashes are going to be inevitable during your baby’s first year, even if it’s just diaper rash,” Dr. Snitzer says. “There’s no need to panic; you just want to learn the best course of action for treatment.”
Here’s a look at common baby skin conditions and what you can do about them.
Small, white pimples on your baby’s cheeks, forehead, chin or back can appear shortly after birth, or when your baby is between two and four weeks old. It’s not contagious and could be caused by anything from the hormones your baby received from you during pregnancy to medications you’ve taken while breastfeeding — or even skincare products.
Treatment: Wash your baby’s face with mild soap and water once a day and pat it dry. Oily lotions and scrubbing can make it worse, so give it time to heal on its own.
Appearing as red, itchy bumps, contact dermatitis occurs when the baby’s skin comes in contact with an irritant—like chemicals in a new, unwashed shirt, scented laundry detergent or the rough texture of a rug.
Treatment: For a dry rash, use moisturizer. For an itchy rash, talk to your dermatologist about whether you should use a hydrocortisone cream or an antihistamine.
Flaky, dry skin or yellowish, crusty patches on the scalp or around the ears, eyebrows, and armpits is most likely cradle cap. It’s not contagious and usually shows up during the baby’s first few months.
Treatment: Cradle cap will usually clear up on its own over time, but you can use a gentle baby shampoo like Mustela daily and then brush your baby’s head with a soft brush or towel. A medicated shampoo might be necessary in extreme cases, so ask your dermatologist for additional recommended shampoos for newborn skin care.
Diaper rash is extremely common and easily identified by red, irritated skin in the diaper area. Mild cases will be just a few little red spots, or it can be more extensive and spread to your baby’s stomach and thighs. It can be caused by a wet diaper, chemical sensitivity (such as the fragrances used in a disposable diaper or detergent used to wash a cloth diaper) or bacterial infection.
Treatment: Changing your baby’s diaper more frequently and making sure there are no chemicals or fragrances in the diaper can help. Use unscented wipes or a soft, wet washcloth during diaper changes, and make sure the area is dry before putting on a new diaper. Diaper creams with zinc oxide help form a protective barrier on the skin. If the diaper rash gets worse or doesn’t clear up, contact your dermatologist; you may need a topical antibiotic or an over-the-counter antibacterial cream to help clear it up.
Eczema can appear when a baby is three or four months old; it’s a very itchy rash that can be found anywhere on the body. It can be mild, with dry, patchy areas, or in more severe cases, it can turn red and begin to ooze pus and crust over.
It is triggered by things like sweating in hot weather, which irritates the skin, or by cold weather that dries it out. Soaps and scratchy clothing or blankets also can cause an outbreak.
Treatment: Your dermatologist can recommend a gentle cleanser that’s good for babies, which you’ll follow with a moisturizer. More severe cases may need a steroid ointment.
Raised red, itchy patches on the skin that last for anywhere from a few hours to a few days are probably hives. They can appear anywhere on the skin, and may disappear from one area, then show up in another area. There are many causes for hives, from insect bites and food to allergens and illness.
Treatment: How you treat hives depends on the cause. If it seems to be because of a pet or exposure to an allergen, you’ll want to separate your baby from the cause and see if a cool bath helps. Calamine lotion can ease symptoms, and if you’re still not getting relief, talk to your dermatologist about using an oral antihistamine.
Tiny white or yellow bumps on your newborn’s nose, chin and cheeks are a harmless condition called milia. They aren’t contagious and will go away in just a few weeks.
Treatment: Dermatologists recommend letting them go away on their own; squeezing them to try and “pop” them could cause scarring, and scrubbing them could irritate your baby’s sensitive skin. If it doesn’t go away in a few months, ask your dermatologist for suggestions.
A red, itchy, bumpy rash that is scattered across your baby’s body and shows up between the fingers is most likely scabies. Scabies is highly contagious and also appears on the head, neck, shoulders, palms, and soles. It is caused by a mite that enters the body through folds in the skin and then burrows in, laying eggs that hatch into larvae.
Treatment: You will need a doctor’s help to treat scabies; most often, your baby will be prescribed a topical cream or lotion, but he or she may also need oral medications, depending on how severe it is. You’ll need to follow your doctor’s directions carefully to ensure other family members do not get infected.
Looking to Visit a Dermatologist?
When you have concerns about your baby’s skin, U.S. Dermatology Partners can help. Contact a U.S. Dermatology Partners provider today. We have multiple locations throughout the country, so fill out our simple online form to get in touch with us. One of our local team members will reach out to you shortly to answer your questions or schedule an appointment for you to visit us soon.
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