All you wanted to know about your baby's skin rash (& how to prevent it)
The baby’s skin is delicate and prone to irritation, dryness, soreness, and rashes due to chemicals and several other product ingredients.
Baby skin is different from that of the adult in structure, composition and function. Although the baby has a skin barrier, it is not fully mature and keeps developing during the first year.1,2 This skin barrier is 30% thinner than adults, more acidic, and loses water more easily.1
The baby’s skin is delicate and prone to irritation, dryness, soreness, and rashes due to chemicals and several other product ingredients. Fortunately, most of these rashes are harmless and go away on their own.
Maintaining good hygiene and adequate protection prevents skin barrier breakdown, rash or infection. It is vital that mild and gentle products especially developed for babies are used for their skin care and nourishment.1,2
A skin rash is a reaction of sensitive baby skin to environmental exposure. It could be red, skin colour or slightly darker or lighter than normal skin tone. It could be bumpy, flat or scaly.3 Most commonly occurring rash in babies are diaper rash, baby acne, cradle cap, eczema, heat rash, and hives.3,4
What causes a diaper rash
In a diaper rash, the skin in contact with the diaper appears red and inflamed caused by long-term dampness caused by urine and faeces touching the skin. Diaper rash caused by yeasts (Candida) appears a little different from that of the diaper rash. It is very red, with small red bumps on the outer edges of the rash.
Candida diaper rash is commonly seen when the baby is not kept clean and dry, if the baby is on antibiotic treatment or if mothers are on antibiotics while breastfeeding, and in babies who pass stools more frequently. Diaper rash can best be avoided by keeping a dry bottom.
Being in diapers for long time is the cause of the problem; it is best to provide diaper-free time as much as possible or change the diaper regularly after the baby urinates or passes stool.
- Always wash your hands before and after diaper change.
- Clean the diaper area thoroughly but do not scrub or rub the area.
- Pat dry the area or allow to air dry.
- Fasten diapers loosely enough so that there is enough room for air to circulate around the baby's bottom.
- Apply petroleum jelly or zinc oxide-based cream to form a physical barrier for the skin.
- Visit the paediatrician in case of any further manifestations.5
Baby acne is caused by the exposure of hormones from the mother through breast feeding. Red bumps are seen on the baby’s face. Acne most often occurs between 2 and 4 weeks of age, but may appear up to 4 months after birth and can last for 12 to 18 months.
Baby acne can be treated just by washing with plain water and mild soap. Bathe the baby every 2 or 3 days only. Avoid acne medicines used for adults.3,4
Continue reading on the next page to know more!
In the ‘cradle cap’ condition, yellowish, greasy, scaly patches develop on a baby's scalp. It usually develops within 2 or 3 months of age. Washing your baby's hair and scalp gently with baby shampoo may help to prevent further development of patches. If the rashes develop beyond the scalp to the face and body and is itchy, then the baby may be suffering from eczema.3,4
Atopic eczema often starts in young babies as a red, itchy rash on the face, scalp and body. The area becomes thickened after a long time. Creams and ointments can often relieve the symptoms. More importantly prevent the baby from scratching and keep the skin moisturised.
Keeping the fingernails short and using mittens for the baby will help minimise scratching. Avoid long hot baths and soaps that cause drying of skin. Apply moisturiser immediately after bath to prevent drying. 3,4
Heat Rash (prickly heat) is caused by the blockage of the sweat glands. As a result sweat is held within the skin causing red bumps or blisters. Heat rash or prickly heat is best treated by providing a cooler and less humid environment for the child but these will soon clear without treatment.3,4
Hives (urticaria) is a raised, red itchy rash appearing on the skin. It is usually triggered by food that the baby may be allergic to; the allergic reaction releases histamine into their skin causing rashes. If it persists and occurs repeatedly, visit a physician to identify the causative agent (allergen) and follow the required treatment.3
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Telofski, LS et al. The Infant Skin Barrier: Can We Preserve, Protect, and Enhance the Barrier? Dermatol Res Pract.. 2012: 1-19.
Fernandes JD, Machado MCR, Prado de Oliveira ZN. Children and newborn skin care and prevention. An Bras Dermatol. 2011;86(1):102-10.
Skin rashes in babies. NHS website. www.nhs.uk/conditions/skin-rash-babies/Pages/Introduction.aspx#heatrash. Accessed July 21, 2016
Rash - child under 2 years. Medlineplus website. medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003259.htm. Accessed July 21, 2016
Diaper rash. Medlineplus website. medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000964.htm. Accessed July 21, 2016