14 Childhood Rashes and Skin Conditions Every Parent Should Know

When you think of your baby’s skin, you might describe it as soft, healthy, chubby or glowing. But of course, as with everything else, there are exceptions. With the arrival of summer comes the arrival of bumps and rashes on your baby’s skin – some caused by viruses, some from bug bites, some from plants and some for no apparent reason at all.

Every parent can attest that when your new baby arrives, skin concerns become front and center when they hit. They can puzzle us with their formation and can cause a lot of concern if you don’t know what you're looking at. If, at any point, you’re unsure what you’re looking at on your baby’s skin, you should always check with your Family Doctor or Paediatrician.

Without further ado, here is a list of the 14 most common rashes and skin conditions that may happen to your baby, what to look for and when to seek medical help from your baby's doctor. or Paediatrician.

14 Baby Acne

What is it:Baby acne is very common among newborns and can be present at birth, but usually appears within a few weeks after birth. Although there is no known cause for baby acne, some experts believe it is caused by the hormones passed on from mother to baby at the end of a pregnancy.

What does it look like:Baby acne looks like acne found on adolescents and, unfortunately, on most adults. Appearing on the cheeks, forehead and chin, baby acne is essentially pimples and can be red bumps or have white in the middle of the red bump.

What to do:More often than not, baby acne will usually clear up on its own within a few weeks, however it can last longer. Try not to irritate your baby’s skin with soap containing oils or harsh additives and over scrubbing. Never use an over-the-counter acne medication on your baby’s sensitive skin. Instead, use gentle baby soap and water and let it clear up on its own. If it persists for very long, speak to your doctor about options.

13 Diaper Rash

What is it:Diaper Rash is common for babies and toddlers who are still wearing diapers. It's described as an inflammation of a baby’s skin in the diaper area. The causes of diaper rash can vary greatly and include: being in a wet diaper for too long, bacterial or yeast infections, chafing, allergic or chemical reaction to the diaper itself, or even to trying new foods.

What does it look like:Diaper Rash, depending on the severity, can look like a mild to moderate red rash in the diaper region of your baby’s skin. If very severe, it can look like red raised bumps that spread across your baby's bottom, stomach and thighs.

What to do:If your baby has a severe diaper rash, keeping them diaper-free for longer periods of time will help to ease the symptoms. Another measure to help soothe your baby is to put a cream or ointment, containing zinc oxide or petrolatum, directly on the rash after it has been cleaned and dried.

Until the rash has cleared up, change your baby’s diaper often, as soon as it becomes wet or soiled. Use sensitive skin wipes as well, as these will lessen the irritants on your baby’s skin. If the rash doesn’t get better or has blisters, boils, pus or discharge, consult your baby's doctor.

12 Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis)

What is it:Eczema is a common skin rash that affects approximately 20% of babies and young children. It usually appears on a baby’s cheeks or scalp, but can spread to other parts of the body, including the arms, legs and chest. Eczema can cause itchiness and irritation for your baby. It is not contagious but can be very uncomfortable for your little one.

What does it look like:Eczema resembles dry, scaly patches on your baby’s skin. The scaly patches can be made up of red bumps, and if your baby scratches, the area can become infected.

What to do:Eczema often goes away on it’s own, but there are measures you can take to combat the symptoms, such as ensuring your baby is moisturized with emollients as these protect the skin’s natural barrier. To ensure your baby can’t scratch and cause an infection, keep nails neatly trimmed and filed until the area becomes less uncomfortable and irritated.

11 Cradle Cap (Infantile Seborrheic Dermatitis)

What is it:Cradle cap is a harmless skin condition that can affect infants on their scalp, eyebrows, eyelids and ears. It will usually clear up, by itself, within the first six months, but can take up to twelve months.

What does it look like:Cradle cap looks like dry, flaky skin on your baby’s scalp or other areas of the skin. It may also resemble a thick scaling on the scalp that tends to be more yellow or brown in colour. It can sometimes resemble dandruff.

What to do:Cradle cap will usually go away on it’s own, in time. Although your baby won't be too fussed about it, if it becomes bothersome to you, there are a few measures you can take to help, like rubbing a small amount of a natural oil - olive or coconut are popular choices - on your baby’s scalp (make sure you wash out the oils, within a few minutes, after rubbing them in), or simply massaging your baby’s scalp with your fingers or a soft brush will help to loosen the dry flakes.

10 Impetigo

What is it:Impetigo is a highly contagious bacterial infection that affects the skin. It is extremely common in children and can be spread easily from direct or indirect contact (indirect meaning the sharing of toys, clothes, towels and other items) with an infected person. It is caused by bacteria (either Staph or Strep) entering the skin from a previous skin irritation, cut or injury.

What does it look like:Impetigo looks like small sores that become blisters and eventually break open and ooze pus. They will crust over, but will continually appear to be oozing fluid. The size of the sores can vary and can appear anywhere on your child's body.

What to do:If you think your baby has impetigo, it’s best to seek the advice of your baby’s doctor. Often, babies and children infected with impetigo will need a full course of oral or topical antibiotics to get rid of the infection.

You’ll also need to keep the area clean, so wash with it with warm water and an antibacterial soap, twice daily. Do not reuse towels, or let anyone else use a towel that has touched the infection, as it is highly contagious. Keep your child’s fingernails trimmed to help prevent scratching the infection.

Also, ensure your family is practising good hand washing measures at home to reduce the likelihood that someone else will get impetigo.

9 Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease

What is it:Hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) is a common viral (enteroviral) illness in children, that causes sores in or on the mouth, palms of the hands and soles of the feet. The sores are usually painful, especially if in the mouth, and might lead to a decrease in appetite because it it painful to swallow.

HFMD can occur in both children and adults and is very contagious, being transmitted through sneezing and coughing as well as through fluids from your baby's stool. Although HFMD can occur at any time, it is most prominent during the summer and fall months.

What does it look like:HFDM starts out looking like small, flat, red dots that resemble a rash on the soles of your child's feet or palms of their hands. These sores may turn into painful blister-like sores. Inside, your child's mouth (on the tongue, gums and insides of the cheeks), the sores may resemble canker-like sores and may be very painful for your child. The amount of sores varies and some children may exhibit no symptoms.

What to do:If you think your child has contracted HFMD, you should consult your baby’s doctor to verify. Although there isn’t much that can be done for HFMD, your doctor may give you recommendations on effective and safe fever and pain relief (remember to NEVER give your child aspirin as this can lead to Reye’s Syndrome) to help ease your child’s symptoms.

8 Fifth Disease

What is it:Fifth Disease is a contagious viral infection that is common among children. It spreads in the air from coughing or sneezing of an infected person. It is a mild infection and usually poses little risk to children, but can pose a big health risk to pregnant women.

What does it look like:Fifth Disease appears suddenly on an infected child's cheeks and resembles bright red patches that look as though your child has been slapped on their cheeks. The rash may then spread to your child's arms and legs and torso. Once these patches of bright red appear, your child is no longer contagious.

What to do:There is not much that can be done for Fifth Disease. However, if you are pregnant and you think your child has Fifth Disease, consult your doctor immediately.

7 Milia

What is it:Milia is a skin condition that is caused by dead skin cells becoming trapped near the surface of your baby’s skin. It is completely harmless and very common among newborns, affecting almost 50% of newborns.

What does it look like:Milia appears on your newborn baby’s skin as tiny, white bumps. Often it appears on your baby’s face, around their cheeks, nose or chin. Milia is often confused with Baby Acne, but unlike acne, milia doesn’t cause any redness or swelling around the white bump.

What to do:There is nothing you can do for Milia. This skin condition will clear up on its own with time – usually within a few weeks. Doctors and pediatricians recommend against putting any creams on your baby’s skin minimize milia. Also, do not try and squeeze the milia as this could cause irritation or even scarring on your baby’s skin.

6 Chickenpox (Varicella)

What is it:Chickenpox is a very contagious varicella zoster virus, and can spread among children very quickly. It is passed through an infected person coughing or sneezing or touching the fluid of someone who is infected.

It usually poses no real health threat among healthy babies and children, though, in rare occurrences, there can be serious complications such as bacterial skin infections, pneumonia or encephalitis – a swelling of the brain.

What does it look like:Chickenpox develops as red bumps or spots. The red spots then blister all over the body, ooze, then crust over. It usually starts off on the face or torso and then spreads to the rest of the body. The blisters are extremely itchy. New red spots will appear for seven to ten days.

What to do:Although there isn’t much that can be done for chickenpox, do visit your baby’s doctor if you’re concerned your baby is sicker than expected. Also, if your child has a chronic illness, or a weakened immune system, you should schedule a visit to your baby’s doctor as a precautionary measure.

If you are pregnant and have never had chickenpox, you should consult your physician if you’ve recently come into contact with an infected person.

5 Heat Rash (Miliaria)

What is it:Heat rash is a rash that develops primarily on clothed parts of your baby’s body when they get too hot. When your baby gets too hot, the sweat produced may become blocked by a diaper or a lot of heavy or non-breathing fabrics - heat rash is often the result. It occurs in children of all ages, but is most common in babies.

What does it look like:Heat rash typically presents as a bright, red rash on clothed parts of the body – torso, diapered region or armpits.

What to do:If you think your baby may have developed heat rash, there is not much that can be done to lessen the rash. There are, however, some things you can do to ease your baby’s discomfort. Avoid hot and humid environments and wear non synthetic fabrics. If the heat rash doesn’t go away after a couple of days, or gets worse, check in with your baby’s doctor.

Also, make sure you monitor your baby for signs of fever and dehydration, and call your baby’s doctor if your baby is showing symptoms.

4 Ringworm

What is it:Ringworm is a very common and extremely contagious fungal infection of the skin. The rash itself may be extremely itchy for your child. Although it most often affects children over the age of two, babies can also develop this infection. Ringworm infection can be transmitted from direct or indirect contact with an infected animal or person.

What does it look like:Ringworm is characterized as a round, scaly, red ring with a smooth center. They can vary in size ranging from the size of a dime, to around an inch in diameter, once the fungus stops growing.

What to do:If you suspect your child may have ringworm, consult your doctor for the best course of action. Your doctor will likely prescribe an anti-fungal topical cream, an anti-fungal medication or a combination of these, to combat the ringworm.

3 Jaundice

What is it:Jaundice is a common skin condition that affects many newborns within the first 5 days of life. It is a symptom of having too much bilirubin in your baby’s blood. Most babies afflicted by this condition usually have a mild case that will go away on its own.

What does it look like:Jaundice is characterized by a yellow tint to your baby’s skin and in the white part of their eyes.

What to do:Jaundice usually goes away on its own, clearing up without any issues. If jaundice appears in the days after birth, you should consult with your baby’s doctor. In rare instances – left untreated – an excess of bilirubin in your baby’s blood can lead to a type of brain damage called kernicterus.

Consult your baby’s Doctor if you think your baby may have jaundice.

2 Erythema Toxicum Neonatorum (Newborn Rash)

What is it:Also called “Newborn Rash,” Erythema Toxicum Neonatorum is a common and harmless skin condition that usually presents in the first few days of your baby’s life. It affects around 50% of newborns and is not contagious. It is not known what causes this condition.

What does it look like:Erythema Toxicum Neonatorum is a rash characterized by tiny white or yellow coloured bumps, surrounded by red skin, on your baby’s body. The rash can appear anywhere on your baby’s body, but usually will not affect the palms of the hands or soles or the feet. Sometimes, it will appear as just a red rash with no visible bumps.

What to do:Erythema Toxicum Neonatorum is a harmless condition and as it’s not know what causes it, there are no treatments for this condition. The rash will go away on it’s own, and will not cause your baby to feel unwell.

1 Hives

What is it:Hives are a common skin reaction - usually to an environmental trigger – that can appear for any number of reasons and may be associated with allergens, such as food allergies, pet allergies, pollen, medication or insect bites and stings. Sometimes they appear because of other causes, including exposure to elements, stress, or pressure on skin.

What does it look like:Hives are raised red bumps or welts that can appear anywhere on the body. They can last anywhere between a couple of hours or up to a week.

What to do:Call 911 immediately if your child has hives accompanied with wheezing, shortness of breath, any swelling of the face, tongue or throat as this can be attributed to anaphylactic shock, which can be fatal.

If the hives are only on your child’s body and there are no respiratory symptoms, wash your child in a bath and give them a change of clothes.

You may want to consult your child's doctor for advice on administering an antihistamine or other medication to reduce the swelling and itching of the hives when they first happen. Also, consult your child's doctor if the hives last more than seven days.

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