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Your Newborn's Skin and Rashes

Common Rashes in the First Few Months of a Baby's Life

  • Cradle cap ('seborrhea') often shows up at 1-2 months of age. Greasy, yellowish crusts appear on the scalp and may include a red, irritating rash on the face, behind the ears, on the neck, and even in the armpits. Your doctor will tell you how to best treat this common condition, depending on your baby's symptoms.
  • Eczema is red, itchy patches on the skin, often seen on the baby's chest, arms, legs, face, elbows, and behind the knees. It is caused by dry, sensitive skin, and sometimes allergies (although it can be difficult at this age to know what the trigger might be).Your doctor can determine if the rash looks like eczema and prescribe the appropriate treatment. In general, treatment consists of:
    • Using a very gentle soap
    • Using a gentle detergent and no fabric softener in baby's laundry
    • Using skin moisturizers
    • Applying a steroid cream (like hydrocortisone or even a stronger one) if the eczema won't go away
  • Prickly heat looks like small red bumps, mostly on areas of your baby's body that tend to overheat and sweat, like the neck, diaper area, and armpits. The treatment is to try to keep the area dry and avoid overheating by dressing him in loose-fitting clothing.
  • A fungal i nfection (candidiasis) can show up in different ways on your baby. On the tongue, it is called thrush and looks like dried milk, which, unlike milk, cannot be scraped off. In the diaper area, candidiasis looks like an intense red rash, often with smaller bumps around the edges. A fungal infection loves moist, dark areas, so you'll find redness due to it in the creases of the thighs. Candidiasis is treated with antifungal oral gel or liquid medicine (for oral thrush) or antifungal cream (for the diaper area), or both.

Tips for Concerned Parents

In the first few months of a baby's life, any rash associated with other symptoms (such as fever, poor feeding, lethargy, or cough)  needs to be evaluated by a doctor as soon as possible.

When to Worry About Baby's Rash

While most rashes are not serious, a few need very close attention:

  • Fluid-filled blisters (especially ones with opaque, yellowish fluid) can indicate a serious infection, like a bacterial infection or herpes.
  • Small red or purplish dots over the body (''petechiae'') can be caused by a viral infection or a potentially very serious bacterial infection. These will not lighten with pressure. Any infant with possible petechiae should be evaluated by a doctor immediately.

 

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Roy Benaroch, MD on June 30, 2012

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