Newborn Rashes and Skin Conditions

Overview

What rashes and skin conditions are common in newborns?

It's very common for newborns to have rashes or other skin conditions. Some of them have long names that are hard to say and sound scary. But most are harmless and will go away on their own in a few days or weeks. Here are some of the things you may notice about your new baby's skin.

Rash

  • Heat rash, sometimes called prickly heat or miliaria, is a red or pink itchy rash on the body areas covered by clothing. This rash can happen when your baby is dressed too warmly. It can happen anytime in very hot weather.
  • Diaper rash is red, sore skin on a baby's bottom or genitals that is caused by wearing a wet diaper for a long time. Urine and stool from a wet diaper can irritate your baby's skin. Sometimes an infection from bacteria or yeast can also cause diaper rash.
  • A rash around the mouth or on the chin that comes and goes is caused by something your newborn probably does a lot: drooling and spitting up.

Pimples

  • Baby acne may appear on your baby's cheeks, nose, and forehead during the first few weeks of life. It usually clears up on its own within a few months. It has nothing to do with getting acne as a teenager.
  • Tiny white bumps, called milia, may appear on your newborn's face and will go away in a few weeks.

Blotchy skin

  • Red blotches with tiny bumps that sometimes contain pus may appear during your baby's first day or two. The blotchy areas may come and go, but they will usually go away on their own within a week. If they don't, your doctor will want to look at them.
  • A rash with pus-filled pimples, called pustular melanosis, is common among black infants. The rash is harmless and doesn't need treatment. It usually goes away after the first few days of life. The dark spots that form when the pimples break open may last for a few weeks or months.
  • A blotchy, lace-like rash (mottling) may appear when your baby is cold. The mottling is your baby's reaction to being in a cold place. Remove your baby from the cold source, and the rash will usually go away. If it is still there when your baby is warmed, it should be checked by a doctor. It usually doesn't happen past 6 months of age.

Tiny red dots

  • These red dots, called petechiae (say "puh-TEE-kee-eye"), are specks of blood that leaked into the skin at birth when your baby squeezed through the birth canal. They will go away within the first week or two. If they started after birth, your doctor should check them.

Scaly scalp

  • Cradle cap, also called seborrheic dermatitis (say "seh-buh-REE-ick der-muh-TY-tus"), is a scaly or crusty skin on the top of your baby's head. It's a normal buildup of sticky skin oils, scales, and dead skin cells. Cradle cap is harmless and will not spread to others. It usually goes away by your baby's first birthday.

What birthmarks are common?

Birthmarks are colored marks on the skin that are there at birth or shortly after birth. They can be different sizes, shapes, and colors. Some form a raised area on the skin. They can grow quickly, stay the same size, shrink, or go away over time.

  • Salmon patches are pink patches, mainly on the back of the neck, upper eyelids, or upper lip, or between the eyebrows.
  • Moles are brown raised bumps that can occur anywhere on the body.
  • Café-au-lait spots are brown, flat, oval birthmarks.
  • Melanocytosis are gray-blue patches that occur mainly on the lower back and buttocks.
  • Hemangiomas are raised blue, red, or purple birthmarks.
  • Port-wine stains are pink-red at birth and then become a darker red-purple color.

Most birthmarks are harmless and painless. Talk to your child's doctor about whether any birthmarks need treatment.

What is jaundice?

Many newborn babies have a yellow tint to their skin and the whites of their eyes. This is called jaundice. It happens when a substance called bilirubin builds up in the baby's blood. It usually appears by 2 to 4 days of age.

Jaundice usually gets better or goes away on its own within a week or two without causing problems. If you are nursing, it may be normal for your baby to have very mild jaundice throughout breastfeeding.

In rare cases, jaundice gets worse and can cause brain damage. So be sure to call your doctor if you notice signs that jaundice is getting worse. Your doctor can treat your baby to get rid of the extra bilirubin. You may be able to treat your baby at home with a special type of light. This is called phototherapy.

When should you call a doctor?

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your baby has symptoms of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the area.
    • Pus draining from the area.
    • A fever of 100.4 °F (38 °C) or higher.
  • Your baby has a rash that isn't better after 2 or 3 days, or the rash has blisters.
  • Your baby has a birthmark that bleeds or grows quickly.
  • Your baby's skin or eyes are getting more yellow.
  • Your baby is arching their back and has a shrill, high-pitched cry.
  • Your baby seems very sleepy, isn't eating or nursing well, or doesn't act normally.
  • Your baby has no wet diapers for 6 hours.
  • Your baby is very fussy and cannot be comforted.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your baby does not get better as expected.
  • Your baby has new symptoms.
  • You have any concerns or questions.

Credits

Current as of: February 28, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board: All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated, disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Learn how we develop our content.