Skin Rashes In Babies – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Skin Rashes In Babies

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You are probably worried about the red marks on your baby’s buttocks, or those red dots on her palms. Well the good news is, you can stop worrying now. She has probably developed a rash. Skin rashes in babies are probably the most frequent infections babies contract, and hardly a reason for abject panic.

What you need to do is get the right information about causes of rashes in babies, and treatment options, so that you can prevent them. And, Momjunction has all the information you need below. Read on and inform yourself.

Understanding Rashes In Babies:

Rashes refer to the appearance of redness or spots in a particular area of a baby’s skin as a result of some infection or condition. Babies are predisposed to developing rashes even when they are a few days old. Most rashes are harmless and will usually pass in a short period.

Since rashes occur due to reactions of the skin to certain foods, metals, bacteria or viruses, they have several causes and sometimes a rash may occur due to a combination of factors. Thus, an understanding of the different types of baby skin rashes and symptoms that would indicate their presence is necessary for all parents.

[ Read: Common Baby Skin Allergies ]

What Causes Skin Rashes In Babies?

Your baby can develop rashes due to various factors. However, by classifying them by certain broader categories, you can get a better idea of how severe a rash is and whether you should head to the doctor immediately.

Baby Skin Rash by Allergies:

1. Hives:

More commonly known as urticaria, if your baby develops red, itchy raised areas of various shapes and sizes on their skin, this will indicate that she has hives [1]. Though it isn’t sure just what exactly causes hives, there is no need to worry as they will usually disappear within six to twelve hours.

Hives typically flare up suddenly, and even when they disappear from one area, they may erupt elsewhere. They can turn up on just one part of the body or across a large stretch of it. The most common cause of hives is direct physical stimulation by environmental factors such as plants, food, heat, light or cold.


The most common symptom is excessive itchiness. Another symptom is blanching, which means the center of the hive turns white when pressed.


The treatment for hives is aimed at relieving the symptoms until the condition disappears on its own. Most cases of mild urticaria will disappear. The only thing that needs treating is the redness and the rash. However, if your baby develops a chronic hives condition, you will need some prescription medication to get rid of it.

  • The most common medication is antihistamines. This medication works by blocking the effects of histamine thereby reducing the itchiness and the rash. Cetirizine, Fexofenadine, and Loratadine are some common antihistamines that doctors prescribe. Sometimes, these antihistamines may cause drowsiness. Hence, you should keep a close eye on your baby and see how your little one reacts to the medication.
  • If the symptoms turn severe, and another medication is unable to treat it, sometimes the doctor may prescribe corticosteroids. Corticosteroid pills work by suppressing the immune system which helps reduce the symptoms of hives. The most common corticosteroid tablet that is recommended is Prednisolone.

However, your baby should not take corticosteroids for long periods of time as they may cause side effects like:

  • High blood pressure
  • Gastrointestinal hemorrhage
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Impaired cognitive function
  • Hyperglycemia
  • Adrenal dysfunction
  • Retinopathy of prematurity
  • Intestinal perforation
  • Infections
  • Poor somatic growth

Not every child will respond to the same medication so it is best to consult your doctor so that you can find the right one for your baby.

[ Read: Hives In Babies ]

Localized Infections With Rashes:

1. Scabies:

This is an infection that is caused by tiny mites. These mites burrow into the outer layer of skin and leave their eggs there [2]. Scabies usually develop in warm places like skin folds, between fingers or toenails or around the buttocks or creases near the breasts.


  • Intense itching that worsens at night
  • Skin rash where the mites have burrowed


The two widely used medications for scabies are Malathion lotion and Permethrin cream. These medications contain insecticides that are meant to kill the scabies mite. Permethrin is usually recommended as the first choice, as it is organic.

[ Read: Scabies In Infants ]

2. Impetigo:

When a scratch, bite or minor irritation to the skin becomes infected with staphylococcus or streptococcus bacteria, a rash is likely to appear [3]. If any part of the child’s body has a wound or a break in the skin, the child can develop impetigo. Here too, the wound will become red and moist with pus and will eventually develop a yellowish scab.

Prevent your little one from scratching. It can spread the bacteria and cause the rashes and sores to develop in other parts of the body. The blisters rupture very quickly to ooze and crust over.

Impetigo rash typically lasts for a week or two. It is extremely contagious and can spread from child to child. Since bacteria are known to spread, if the child scratches the wound, he or she is likely to develop more rashes and sores. However, these usually last for about a week, after which they dry up and fall off.


The easiest way of knowing if your child has impetigo is by watching out for:

  • Small, pus-filled blisters around the nose and mouth that crust over very quickly
  • Itching
  • Inflammation of the affected area


The best way of preventing impetigo is to make sure the child maintains proper hygiene. Washing their hands thoroughly, having separate towels, and washing bed linen and clothes regularly help prevent this infection.

Also, keep your little one’s nails cut short so that he cannot scratch the sores and spread the bacteria to other parts of the body.

Though it is always a good idea to consult your doctor, you can treat most impetigo cases at home itself. Washing the affected area with antibacterial soap and water a couple of times a day and then applying an antibacterial ointment help treat the infection. The rash should abate in a week. If it doesn’t and takes a turn for the worse, your baby may need oral or topical antibiotic.

[ Read: Impetigo In Infants ]

3. Cellulitis:

This localized infection is caused by the streptococcus bacteria [4]. It causes the skin of the child to become red, hot and swollen in a particular area. This is an infection that spreads quite fast and thus needs to be treated quickly.


The infected area will grow as the infection increases. Sometimes, there may be red streaks leading away from the area. However, the more common symptoms include:

  • The affected area gets raised or swollen
  • A sharp edge where the infected skin meets the healthy skin


If the infection is not too severe, the doctor prescribes oral antibiotics. To minimize swelling and pain, the affected part needs to be kept slightly raised and should not be exerted. Sometimes pain-relieving medicines like acetaminophen or ibuprofen are administered to the child.

However, if your child has a severe case of cellulitis, intravenous antibiotics or hospitalization will be needed.

[ Read: Warts In Babies ]

4. Infected Wounds:

If your child has a skin irritation, cut or bruise and this gets infected by bacteria, either on the surface of the skin, on the mucous membranes or from external sources, your baby will develop an infected wound.

If the infection is severe, the wound will turn red and black, it will have pus, and later a scab will appear. Since the baby’s lymphatic nodes are likely to become swollen in the surrounding area, they will develop a rash. You should prevent your baby from scratching the wound as the bacteria can spread, giving rise to more sores.


The symptoms that your baby can develop due to a secondary infection include:

  • Presence of pus
  • Red and inflamed area
  • Tenderness
  • Pain
  • Fever


Some of the conventional treatment methods when your child develops an infected wound would include:

  • Draining The Wound:

This is done to remove the drain fluid that is collected inside the infected wound

  • Antibiotics:

Depending on how severe the infection is, your doctor may sometimes suggest the use of antibiotics to help the wound recover faster.

[ Read: Baby Neck Rash ]

Fungal Rashes:

These skin rashes on babies are caused by two distinct types of fungi, namely tinea and candida.

1. Tinea Infection:

This type of fungal rash and infection affects the feet, scalp, groin and legs. The different types of tinea infection include:

a. Ringworm:

This includes the appearance of oval or ring-shaped lesions with normal looking skin in the middle. It also has an itchy and slightly raised edge around it. Ringworm infections may occur on the scalp, body, nails or even the face of the child. Children may also develop fungal scalp infection, known as scalp ringworm.


  • Red patches that look like a ring with normal skin in the center
  • Itchy, red, raised patches that may blister and ooze
  • For scalp ringworm, severe dandruff is the major symptom


The standard treatment for ringworm is using antifungal creams, tablets, shampoos and soaps daily. Some other ways of getting rid of this fungal infection or preventing it from occurring would include:

  • Washing the affected area thoroughly on a daily basis and drying it up well.
  • Paying special attention to skin folds
  • Wash clothes, towels, and bed linen frequently
  • Wear loose clothes, preferably those made of cotton or other natural material

For scalp ringworm, antifungal medications, such as Griseofulvin, Itraconazole, and Terbinafine, are the most commonly prescribed medication. Antifungal medications usually don’t have side effects. So, you needn’t worry about how they will affect your baby.

[ Read: Molluscum Contagiosum In Babies ]

b. Fungal Nail Infection:

This infection, also known as onychomycosis, affects the nails. Keeping your baby’s soft nails clean is an easy way of preventing this infection from occurring. Though this infection is not usually serious, it causes the nail to become discolored, thickened, brittle and distorted.


A nail infection does not show any visible symptoms at the start. However, as the infection progresses, you will see:

  • Discoloration Of The Nail:

It may become white, black, yellow or even green

  • Thickening And Distortion:

The shape and texture will also change, making it hard to cut and trim the child’s nails

  • May Become Brittle:

Parts of your baby’s nail may start to crumble and fall off as the infection progresses


Treatment isn’t always a necessity for mild fungal infection. However, you wouldn’t want your baby to have a distorted nail as he or she grows up thus visiting the doctor is a smart choice. Maintaining good foot hygiene is crucial. Some of the most commonly suggested treatment methods that doctors prescribe are:

  • Antifungal Ointment:

You would have to smear this on and around the nail

  • Nail Softening Agent:

You can get nail softening kit online, which contains a certain paste that needs to be applied to the infected nail of the child before scraping the nail off.

  • Antifungal Nail Paint:

The doctor may prescribe antifungal nail varnish on occasions. These paints take a long time to show effect, about two months before you can see results.

c. Jock Itch:

This is a fungal infection that affects the groin and is also known as tinea cruris. Warm, moist and airless areas are where fungi tend to grow thus making the groin area apt for this infection. It usually occurs in the legs and the genital area.


  • Itchy and irritable groin
  • A red rash with a definite edge or border in the groin area


An OTC antifungal cream is usually enough to help ease the itch and redness. However, to ensure it doesn’t recur, washing the groin area thoroughly and maintaining good hygiene are important.

d. Athlete’s Foot:

This infection usually appears between the toes. The affected skin becomes itchy, red, cracked, scaly or blistered. Although this is not a serious infection, it needs to be treated to stop it from spreading.


The area between the toes will have:

  • Small blisters
  • Itchiness and redness
  • Will feel white, soggy and cracked


This infection usually gets better by itself. However, using antifungal treatments help, irrespective of whether it is creams, sprays or liquids. To make sure it doesn’t recur, change your baby’s socks daily as fungi can remain present in the flakes of skin [5]

[ Read: Fungal Skin Infection In Babies ]

2. Candida Infections:

Candida usually manifests in the form of oral thrush, as a white coating on the tongue or mouth or as a shiny, red rash in the diaper region. These infections will occur under folds of moist skin like on a baby’s chin or between toes and is sometimes accompanied by itching and nail discoloration.

One common candida infection that babies often get:

a. Infected Diaper Rash:

This usually occurs when the skin on the baby’s diaper area gets irritated. This is also known as yeast diaper rash. The infected area will become red, slightly raised, and will have small red dots that extend beyond the main part of the rash.


To tackle this, make sure you clear your baby’s diaper as soon as it is wet or soiled. Making use of a cream or ointment that contains zinc oxide or petroleum will help to soothe the baby’s skin and protect it from moisture. However, a thick layer of this cream should be applied, and the infection should pass within 2-3 days.

Viral Skin Rashes In Babies:

1. Molluscum Contagiosum:

This virus causes bumps or growth to appear on various parts of the body. Most commonly seen on the face, arms or neck of the child, they do not cause pain but are itchy and sometimes become red and inflamed.


You need to look out for:

  • Dome-shaped lesions that are flesh colored
  • Lesions that are pearly in appearance and have a dimpled center


Though the infection resolves on its own within a year, doctors recommend covering these bumps with bandages so that the child does not scratch them and cause them to spread. Sometimes doctors may use antiviral therapy to get rid of this infection. Direct lesion trauma is also a widely used treatment approach.

However, treatment is usually recommended only when lesions are in the genital area. Physical removal methods include:

  • Cryotherapy, which involves freezing the lesions with liquid nitrogen
  • Curettage means piercing the core of the lesion and scraping the caseous material off
  • Laser therapy, where a laser beam kills the infection causing the virus.

However, most of the time, oral cimetidine is used to treat small children as this reduces the possibility of scarring as well as pain. But it is found that facial molluscus do not respond well to cimetidine [6].

2. Warts:

This is a common viral infection that affects most children get when they are young. Warts usually pass off on their own and are painless unless that part of the body gets touched a lot. They may occur on any part of the body though they prefer warm, moist places. So small cuts or scratches on the hands or feet is where they are most likely to occur.


A hard, rough surface that is slightly raised on the skin is the most common indication that your child has warts.


You don’t have to get warts removed as they usually pass off within six months to 2 years. However, if they are painful or interfere with your baby’s routine functions, you should get them treated. There are different ways in which doctors remove warts, like:

  • Using a light electrical current to burn the wart off
  • Using liquid nitrogen to freeze the wart
  • Applying prescription medication on the wart
  • Laser treatment

After treating it for a couple of days, it will fall off on its own, but several treatments may be necessary.

3. Slapped Cheek Syndrome:

This is a viral infection that particularly affects babies and small kids and manifests as a bright red rash that develops on both cheeks. Within one to three weeks, it will clear up.


Though there aren’t any early symptoms to detect it, you may notice the following signs:

  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Runny nose
  • An upset stomach
  • A slightly high temperature


The best treatments advise parents to continue the normal feed of the baby and ensure that they get enough rest. If the child has fever or pain, painkillers, like ibuprofen, usually are the best. Sometimes, your doctor may prescribe antihistamines and moisturizing lotions to provide relief from the itching [7].

General Infections With Widespread Rashes:

1. Chickenpox:

If your baby has red marks all over their body that resemble mosquito bites, they have chicken pox. The skin around the vesicles is normal, and this infection is contagious. You may assume this is a rash when it is an infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus [8]. The good news is once your baby gets chickenpox, he will develop immunity to the virus, which lies dormant inside your baby’s body.


  • Fever
  • Influenza-like symptoms
  • Congestion
  • Blisters in the mouth


To prevent chickenpox, the pediatrician may suggest a varicella vaccine as a part of your baby’s immunization schedule. Sometimes they may prescribe antibiotics to treat bacterial infection in the lesions. You should apply lotion to the child to reduce the itching and should make sure that the child doesn’t scratch the rashes as they may spread.

[ Read: Ringworm In Babies ]

2. Acne:

Red or white rashes on a baby’s cheeks or forehead are an indication of baby acne. This usually occurs in the first month after birth and usually disappears after a few months


The acne appears as red bumps or pimples. Sometimes white pus boils or whiteheads may also develop. There may also be reddish skin around the bump.


Baby acne normally disappears without treatment. But if it lasts for a long time, pediatricians will suggest a cream or ointment to clear the acne. However as a baby’s skin is very sensitive at this age, you should not use over-the-counter lotions or creams as they may irritate the baby’s skin.

[ Read: Tips For Baby Skin Care ]

3. Cradle Cap:

This happens at one to two months of age and appears on the scalp of the baby. Also known as infantile seborrheic dermatitis, this infection includes greasy, oily patches on the baby’s skin.


  • Skin flakes
  • Patchy scaling
  • Yellowish crusts


Cradle cap doesn’t require medical treatment. It usually clears up on its own. However, washing your baby’s hair with mild shampoo once a day helps loosen the scales. Make sure you do not use any over-the-counter medication without consulting your doctor first.

These are some of the common rashes on baby skin that can develop. However, treating different baby rashes depends on some factors. Knowing more about the various rashes and their symptoms will you deal with each type of rash in a proper manner and without getting stressed out.

Did your baby also develop a rash? What type of rash did she develop and what measures did you take. We would like to hear from you, so feel free to comment below.

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