Red Alert! What is that Rash?

You are so careful: Washing baby’s clothes separately with infant-friendly detergent, bathing baby with gentle cleansers, keeping her little bottom clean and dry. Yet no matter how careful you are, there will be a moment you look at baby’s newborn skin and think, “Oh my goodness what IS that Rash?”

Before your freak-out meter goes off the charts, remember that your baby lived in liquid in your belly for 9+ months. Her skin makes a huge transition to the outside air. And while baby was in utero, her skin was affected by your hormones—just like your skin is.

When to worry

Take your baby to her care provider when see other symptoms like fever, lethargy or a cough along with a rash.

Blisters (not tiny acne spots) filled with pussy-looking liquid could signal an infection—get it checked out. Finally, reddish/purplish dots over the body that do not lighten after you press on them also need to be checked.

What Is That Rash?

Baby acne: These little pink/red bumps show up most often on cheeks. They may even have a little pus in them, just like the zits you may get. But don’t pick or squeeze them! They’re thought to be related to baby’s exposure to your hormones in utero. They will fade away, usually within a few weeks. There’s no cream or treatment for them.

Diaper rash:
This red rash on your baby’s bottom irritates her skin; it may even be slightly raised and warm. It comes from baby’s urine and poop, but diaper rash doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re doing a bad job of keeping baby clean! Her delicate skin just may need a little extra protection; choose a diaper rash zinc oxide cream or ointment.

Try one, and if the rash doesn’t improve within a day, try the other type. Zinc oxide worked best on my first two kids, but my third baby’s rash got worse with zinc oxide—she needed ointment.

Those itchy, raised red patches on baby’s skin may be eczema, especially if they’re on her arms, legs, chest, face, elbows, or behind her knees. Eczema is dry, sensitive skin, and it can be caused by allergies, but let her healthcare provider help you decide that.

Manage eczema by eliminating soap while bathing, use very gentle detergent for baby’s laundry, and moisturize her skin with a fragrance-free, hypo-allergenic product.

Heat rash: Baby can’t chill like we can. Heat rash appears on her body as small red bumps in the overheated areas and creases, such as her diaper area, neck folds and armpits. Keep these areas dry and dress her in loose-fitting clothing for comfort. Heat rash occurs less in cooler seasons.

What is that Rash?, is only one of the articles we have on Baby’s skincare;  also read Newborn Skin Care Basics.


Catherine Catie Chung PhD, RN, CNE, is a former nurse expert advisor to Healthy Mom&Baby in practice in Las Vegas, NV.

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