Parents should investigate any bluish color they spot on their baby's skin. Blue skin means the underlying blood has a blue cast rather than the nice pink color of blood with lots of oxygen in it. Fortunately, in most cases it's quite normal and harmless as long as it's temporary.
What Causes a Baby's Blue Skin?
There are two reasons why the blood under a baby's skin might look blue:
- The baby's lungs are not getting enough oxygen. Since oxygen is what makes blood turn red, blood cells without oxygen remain blue ("cyanosis").
- The underlying blood is moving sluggishly, so the normal veins underneath that carry blue, oxygen-poor blood back to the heart are more noticeable.
You can tell if there is insufficient oxygen in the blood by checking the color of the skin all over your baby's body. If there is a bluish cast everywhere (especially in areas with a lot of blood flow, like the lips, tongue, and vagina or scrotum), this could mean all of the blood is blue and there could be a problem with the heart or lungs.
More commonly, it's only certain areas -- like the hands or feet -- that has a blue tint. This is usually perfectly normal and just reflects the baby's somewhat immature blood circulation.
Tips for Concerned Parents
If you are concerned about a blue tinge to your baby's skin, check their entire body. An off-and-on blue cast to the hands and feet, with pink skin elsewhere, is not a sign of a problem.
When to Worry About Your Baby's Circulation
If there is a bluish cast over the entire body, the blood may be lacking sufficient oxygen. This is very worrisome and you should seek medical attention immediately. It’s also concerning if you notice any blueness at all when it seem like your baby might be having trouble breathing.
But you don't need to worry if your baby's hands and feet turn blue for a short period of time when the rest of the body is pink and your baby is breathing normally. Again, this is merely your baby's immature circulatory system at work.