By Lisa Pecos
Skin issues are par for the course when a baby is in his or her first year of life. Our skin is a protective barrier meant to keep bacteria out and it gets better at doing this after the first year of life as the pigment increases and the skin gets thicker. Until your baby’s skin adjusts to the environment around it though, it’s more susceptible to irritation.
Knowing which skin issues are common in babies and how to treat them can help prepare you for what’s to come and spare you some of the anxiety and worry that’s natural when your baby’s delicate skin becomes red or flaky.
The following are 5 common baby skin issues and what to do about them.
Diaper rash is by far the most common and one of the most dramatic looking skin issues that your baby will develop. A patch of bright red skin on a baby’s bottom or anywhere in the diaper area is likely a case of diaper rash. The cause of this is usually prolonged contact with the urine or feces inside the diaper, though babies with especially sensitive skin can get diaper rash soon after soiling their diaper.
Diaper rash can usually be prevented by changing your baby’s diaper often and letting your baby spend short periods of time without a diaper on. If your baby develops diaper rash, air out your baby’s bottom and apply a diaper rash cream with each diaper change.
This thick, yellowish crust on your baby’s scalp is common in the first 3 months of life. Cradle cap can cause the skin to become scaly and greasy, but usually doesn’t cause the baby any discomfort and clears on its own by 6 months of age, according to the Mayo Clinic.
You can treat cradle cap by washing your baby’s hair with a mild baby shampoo. Use a soft baby hair brush to help loosen the scales. If the scales are hard to remove, you can rub a few drops of olive or mineral oil, or petroleum jelly on your baby’s scalp and wait a few minutes so that it softens before gently brushing and shampooing it off. Your doctor can recommend other options if it doesn’t improve or if your baby develops a fungal infection.
Intertrigo is a red, weepy rash that is commonly found in skin folds and most often on a baby’s neck. This type of rash develops where the skin creases because of excessive moisture buildup from drooling, sweating, and spitting up. Most of the time your baby won’t be bothered by it, but the friction of skin-on-skin might cause some pain.
Wash your baby’s skin folds with water and apply petroleum jelly or a zinc oxide cream to help protect the skin from moisture. Keeping the area dry can help which is why intertrigo improves as babies get older and are able to lift their heads, helping to air out their neck folds.
If you find patches of dry, scaly skin on your baby, there’s a good chance they’ve got baby eczema. The itchy and dry patches can become pink and occasionally weepy, eventually crusting over. Fortunately, most babies outgrow eczema.
Treating your baby’s eczema involves protecting them from anything that can bother or dry the skin, such as extreme heat or cold. Over-bathing can worsen eczema, so limit baths to every two or three days. Always pat the skin dry with a towel since rubbing can irritate the skin further. Though your doctor can prescribe medicated ointment for severe eczema; most of the time you can improve eczema baby using a generous amount of an unscented moisturizer.
Many babies are born with milia, which is characterized by tiny white bumps on the nose, cheeks, or chin, though they can appear on other parts of the body as well. These little bumps are the result of skin flakes getting trapped in tiny pockets on the surface of the skin.
Milia don’t require treatment and will clear up within a few weeks to a few months.
If your baby’s rash is severe or accompanied by fever, contact your doctor to rule out other more serious medical conditions.