Learn about common skin conditions that affect your baby, and how to treat them.
Some common skin conditions that your baby might have include dry skin, as well as birthmarks and diaper rash. Learn how to prevent some of these conditions, where possible, and also to treat them.
Cradle cap is fairly common among babies from one to three months of age. Typically, you may notice rough, scaly patches and flaky skin on the scalp, usually white or yellow and dry or greasy. This may appear on the scalp, face, upper chest, and back. Unlike eczema, it’s not itchy or irritating, so your little one will not feel any discomfort. Mild cradle cap should resolve itself within a few days with treatment.
Look out for your baby’s skin turning red, orange or inflamed, or if he/she develops a fever. Severe cradle cap that resists treatment may be associated with immune system problems. Otherwise, you can use a gentle baby shampoo with no fragrance on your baby’s scalp daily, and apply a couple drops of baby or mineral oil and massage into the scales. Alternatives include coconut and sunflower oil.
Peeling After Birth
After birth, your baby’s outer layer may shed, most noticeably on the hands, soles of the feet and the ankles. The amount varies according to when your baby was born, and how much vernix your baby had on his/her skin at birth. This will go away on its own without needing special care.
One of the most common skin conditions is eczema or atopic dermatitis, which may cause dry, red and itchy patches. You may need to avoid irritants like some shampoo and detergents, dairy and soy products and wheat – try these products instead. Additionally, try special moisturising creams for eczema.
If you notice dry or itchy skin, with polygon-shaped scales that are brown, grey or white, or a flaky scalp and thickened skin, your baby may have ichthyosis. This can begin at birth or in the first few years, and may disappear during childhood. For some, it may return in adulthood.
Have your paediatrician look at this. He/she will likely ask about your family history, when it first began and if your little one has any other skin conditions. Aside from recording where the patches of dry skin appear, he/she may also perform a blood test or skin biopsy.
This can be treated with keratolytics, or retinoids. Use moisturisers to improve the skin’s dryness, and avoid soap. Other options include shampoos with salicylic acid, and brushing the hair to remove the scales. A humidifier, short bath times up to 10 minutes with lukewarm water and fragrance-free and soap-free cleansers, and keeping your baby hydrated also can help this condition. Protect your newborn’s face from the wind and cold air, and avoid harsh chemicals and use a detergent for sensitive skin.
Red Bumps or Growths
In babies, heat rash presents as clusters of small, often moist red bumps resembling pimples or blisters. These usually appear on the face, the folds of the neck, arms, legs, diaper area and upper chest. Your baby may be cranky and restless due to the itching and tingly “prickly” pain, and may have difficulty sleeping.
Use a mild soap and lukewarm water during bath time and then pat dry. Keep your baby cool and dry with a fan, and avoid powders, oils and lotions. Where possible, you can let your baby wander around the house without clothes. Try not to baby-wear your little one in a carrier or sling for too long, and dress him/her in loose-fitting, breathable clothes. In hot weather, seek refuge in air-conditioned spots. Do call your paediatrician if your baby’s rash lasts for three or more days, and look out for pustules and swelling- this might indicate a yeast or bacterial infection.
Signs and symptoms of impetigo usually include red sores that rupture, ooze for a few days and then form a yellowish-brown crust, typically around the nose and mouth. However, this can also spread to other areas of the body. Other types of impetigo include bullous impetigo, with large blisters on your baby’s trunk, or ecthyma, painful fluid or pus-filled sores that become deep ulcers. Definitely see your child’s paediatrician if you suspect your little one has impetigo.
Most common in children from two to five, it spreads easily in schools and childcare settings, so keep your child at home until the paediatrician confirms he/she is not contagious. The bacteria enters the body via small skin injuries, insect bites or rashes. Treat this with an antibiotic ointment or cream – you may need to soak the affected area in warm water or use wet compresses before applying the ointment or cream.
In terms of prevention, wash cuts, scrapes, insect bites or other wounds correctly. Reduce the spread by washing the affected areas with mild soap and running water, then cover with gauze. Don’t share your baby’s clothes, linens and towels with anyone and wash them daily. Wear gloves when applying the ointment and wash your hands well afterwards. Additionally, keep your baby’s nails short so he/she doesn’t scratch.
Triggering infant acne are maternal hormones still circulating in your baby’s bloodstream from pregnancy. After stimulating your little one’s oil-producing glands, your baby may develop red pimples on the chin, eyelids, cheeks, forehead, neck, upper chest and back.
Instead of squeezing or picking the acne, cleanse the area with warm water twice to thrice a day, and gently pat skin dry. Breast milk may also help since it has antimicrobial properties. Otherwise, ask your paediatrician for a prescription or over-the-counter medication for your baby. Next, monitor and wait for them to disappear in a few months.
Moving on to birthmarks, some of these skin conditions should go away on their own. Others may need laser treatment in future if your child feels self-conscious.
These are clusters of extra blood vessels on your baby’s skin, and may show up at birth or form a few weeks or months after birth. They may look like rubbery, bumpy, red “strawberry” patches, or deep bruises. Most will go away on their own without any problems, however others may need early treatment, especially if they interfere with your baby’s sight, hearing, breathing or eating. In some cases, it may lead to an open sore. Treatments include propranolol, oral steroids, topical medications, steroid injections, surgery or laser treatment.
Similar to the hemangiomas, the “stork bite” birthmarks are flat, pink or red, and found on the eyelids, forehead, top of your baby’s head, the back of his/her neck, under his/her nose or on the lower back. Like the strawberry hemangioma, it should go away on its own by the time your baby is a toddler.
Port Wine Stain
While also flat, pink or red, these are usually larger than the “stork bite” birthmarks and may affect more areas of the body and face. These are made up of extra capillaries and do not go away. Do contact your paediatrician if the birthmark is on the eyelid and forehead – it may be related to a rare Sturge-Weber syndrome. It may be possible to lighten the birthmark via laser treatment but will not permanently erase the birthmark.
Cafe au Lait Spots
Light brown, these spots can darken with sun exposure. They often have irregular edges and vary in colour and size. If your baby has six or more spots with freckles under the arm or around the groin, this could suggest a genetic problem called neurofibromastosis type 1, so it’s best to get it checked. Otherwise, these spots are usually harmless, and do not require treatment. If your child feels self-conscious about these when he/she is older, he/she can try to use makeup to conceal it or consider going for laser treatment.
This appears as a grey, greenish, blue or black mark, and usually on the back and buttock area. They do not cause pain and are not caused by any injuries. If you spot this on your baby, do get it checked out as it can be associated with rare metabolic diseases like Hurler’s disease or Hunter’s syndrome. Most Mongolian spots can disappear completely by the time a child reaches age five, but sometimes it persists for life. Treatment options when your child becomes an adult include laser removal or a skin bleaching cream.
Preventable Skin Conditions
Other common skin conditions include sunburn and diaper rash – the good news is these are usually preventable.
Limit your baby’s exposure to the sun, especially during 10am to 4pm, as it might cause sunburn. If the burn is particularly bad, it may begin to blister and the redness will fade in two or three days, while the skin starts to peel. Researchers have also estimated that 90 per cent of skin cancers are due to overexposure to the sun. A single bad burn in infancy or childhood might double the risk of getting melanoma.
Hence, use waterproof sunscreen with SPF of at least 30, with broad spectrum protection and for sensitive skin. You may want to do a patch test two days before using the product. For little ones under six months, apply sunscreen on small areas like their faces, backs of the hands and tops of the feet. Keep them in the shade as much as possible. As for older babies, reapply sunscreen often and liberally once they get wet. Use the sunshade on your stroller, or hide under a big umbrella at the pool.
If you see red, tender-looking skin in the diaper region, or your baby seems more uncomfortable especially during diaper changes, he/she might have a diaper rash. Other This is usually related to wet or irregularly changed diapers, skin sensitivity and chafing. Other causes may include irritation from your baby’s stool and urine, chafing or rubbing, or as a reaction to a new product. Additionally, babies might have a bacterial or yeast infection. If you’ve introduced new foods, your baby’s stool contents will change and likely develop diaper rash. For breastfed babies, they can develop diaper rash in response to something their mothers have eaten.
To reduce the likelihood of getting diaper rash, change diapers often and rinse your baby’s bottom with warm water or use washcloths, cotton balls and unscented baby wipes. Pat the skin dry with a clean towel or let air dry, and don’t tighten the diapers too much. Also, wash your hands well after changing diapers. You can also use diaper rash cream to help prevent this.
This article originally appeared on Motherswork.