Small pimples, redness, and other types of skin rashes are common in babies. They are seldom serious and usually disappear on their own.
However, some skin problems can be a sign of more serious problems, in which case you should see a health professional.
Contact Info-Santé or your doctor if
- Red, raised, very itchy patches appear suddenly on your baby’s body
- The rash bleeds or seems infected. It becomes very red, cracks, runs or becomes covered with a thin, yellowish crust
- The rash doesn’t disappear after a few days and your baby seems unwell and has a fever (see Fever and skin rashes (contagious diseases));
- You have any other concerns
Common skin problems in newborns
Pimples and spots (milia, toxic erythema, newborn acne) often appear in the first days of life. In most cases these problems are not serious and disappear within a few weeks without treatment.
Dry skin and eczema
Your baby’s skin is very fragile and sensitive. It can become very dry. Newborns’ skin can peel and crack around the joints. This problem usually goes away within a few weeks.
What to do?
- Bathe your baby less often.
- Use only a small amount of mild, unscented soap. Soap and hot water tend to dry the skin.
- If you wish, moisturize the dry areas with an unscented lotion or cream.
If your baby has a rash or redness as well as dry skin, he could have eczema, in which case you may have to see a health professional.
Heat rash (prickly heat)
Heat rash is characterized by small, round, sometimes raised red spots on the forehead, around the neck, and in the folds of the skin. This is a normal reaction when it’s hot out or when your baby has a fever.
What to do?
If it’s hot out, don’t overdress your baby so she doesn’t sweat too much. The heat rash will disappear once your baby is in a cooler environment.
Crusty patches on the scalp (cradle cap, seborrhea)
Many babies have yellowish or greyish crusty patches on the scalp. They can be in the form of scales or small patches that peel and can sometimes cause itchiness. These crusty patches occur when a surplus of oily secretions (seborrhea) is produced or the baby’s hair is frequently washed without being rinsed properly. This is a very common problem and is not a sign of infection, allergy, or lack of hygiene.
What to do?
A simple hair wash can get rid of the crusty patches. Apply the shampoo, massage it in, and leave it for 10 to 15 minutes to soften the crust. Rinse well with warm water.
If crusty patches remain, apply a vegetable oil (e.g., olive oil) or mineral oil to your baby’s scalp. After a few hours, gently peel off the crusts with a soft brush or fine comb. Then wash again with warm water, rinse, and dry. If necessary, repeat the treatment once a day for a few days.
If this treatment doesn’t work or if the crusty patches spread, you can use a medicated shampoo sold in drugstores. If necessary, talk to your pharmacist or another health professional.
Redness in the folds of the skin (intertrigo)
The skin becomes irritated when two skin surfaces rub against each other. This can occur under the chin, on the neck, under the arms, on the thighs, under the scrotum, or behind the ears. Redness appears in areas that are damp from perspiration, stool, or milk, which encourages germs to develop.
What to do?
Clean the affected areas with a mild soap and dry them well by gently patting the skin with a towel. If the redness persists, see a health professional.
Your baby’s bottom becomes red. The redness can spread to the thighs, vulva, or scrotum. Your baby appears uncomfortable and irritable, especially when he or she pees.
These symptoms of diaper rash are very common. They are mainly caused by the skin coming in contact with urine or stools and sometimes the diapers themselves. Washable diapers can irritate the skin if they are not rinsed well enough or are not changed often enough. Some brands of scented disposable diapers can also irritate your baby’s skin.
What to do?
Leave your baby with a bare bottom as much as possible. Your baby will feel better and the diaper rash will heal faster.
If you use cotton diapers, rinse them well and avoid using strong laundry detergent. If you use disposable diapers, choose the unscented type.
Avoid using baby wipes because they can also irritate your baby’s skin. They should be used only occasionally and should not contain alcohol or perfume.
Change your baby’s diaper as soon as it’s wet or soiled. Make sure the diaper is not too tight.
Wash your baby’s bottom gently with water or a mixture of water and unscented oil, then pat dry with a towel, without rubbing.
If redness is minimal and not widespread, apply a generous layer of a protective ointment containing 10% to 20% zinc oxide. The ointment protects the skin and doesn’t have to be wiped off completely at each diaper change.
If redness is more severe and widespread, use a protective ointment containing 20% to 40% zinc oxide. In this case, it’s best to avoid ointments that contain allergenic ingredients like lanolin or irritating ingredients such as fragrance. If necessary, ask your pharmacist which product may be best for your baby.
If the redness persists for a few days and your baby seems unwell, see a health professional.