Baby Rashes: When to See a Doctor

Babies are pure, sweet, innocent, and often covered in bumps. Their skin is very new. In fact, it’s three to five times thinner than adult skin, and it’s made of tinier cells. Although it’s thinner than adult skin, an infant’s top layer of skin (called their epidermis) will be three to five times greater in surface area relative to body weight, and its small cells mean baby skin absorbs water and other substances into their bodies at increased rates. This isn’t always great for babies' health, since an infant’s skin hasn’t spent much time out in the world and doesn’t know how to react to many of the things it will inevitably encounter. Babies are also still building their immune systems, and until their bodies are strong enough to combat germs and the effects of their environment, rashes are relatively common.


Not every rash will require a trip to the doctor. There are a few readily available remedies for rashes caused by heat exposure or other common irritants. Stubborn rashes or rashes that may be symptomatic of a larger problem do however require prompt medical attention to ensure your baby remains healthy.


The Different Types of Rashes


Rashes can come from a variety of sources. If your baby frequently gets the same kind of rashes, it might become easier to investigate and identify the irritant or issue and treat it immediately. Unfamiliar rashes will require greater scrutiny, and perhaps a visit to your pediatrician.


Regardless of the type of rash, you can use Communkind to carefully document symptom histories with photos and detailed notes about rash occurrence (date, time, context, etc.) to share with your child’s caregivers.


Being proactive about tracking your child’s rash can help paint a bigger picture of what’s going on — it’s tough to notice small changes from day to day, but being able to see photos of the rash’s progression and reviewing notes you took about how your child was feeling is invaluable when investigating the root cause and looking at symptom trends.


In truth, being proactive in taking your child’s health into your own hands by keeping track of any change in their health from mood to eating habits to height and weight changes to a new rash serves to help you build your own child’s medical history in an accessible, secure, easy to manage record you (and eventually, they) can use for the rest of their life.


Diaper Rash

Diaper rash is very common. It appears as red or pink patches on your baby’s skin in areas that are covered by a diaper. The most common cause of diaper rash is when wet diapers are not changed frequently enough. If your baby’s diaper becomes wet throughout the night and isn’t changed until morning, prolonged exposure to a soiled diaper will irritate their skin, causing a rash.


In some rare cases, other conditions can cause diaper rash. If the rash changes with time or appears abnormal, it may result from a bacterial or yeast infection.


As a parent, you can provide the first line of defense for your child given the amount of time you spend with them. Therefore, it’s highly recommended to be proactive and take your baby’s health into your own hands. With Communikind, you can monitor the progression of any symptom your child may be experiencing by creating a past or present record, which you can log right into the app. In addition to the date, time, and context of the rash, another great component of the app is that you can store pictures of your child’s rash each time you log a symptom, mood, or event.


Another thing you can do is switch to highly absorbent diapers, but make sure you aren’t securing them too tightly. Use baby wipes that are free from alcohol and fragrances, as both are unnecessary additives that can be irritating to the skin. Thoroughly wash your baby once a day with gentle soap. Look for a natural soap for sensitive skin, preferably one made especially for babies like Honest Company’s vegan Baby Body Wash or Cetaphil’s Baby Wash & Shampoo with Organic Calendula. Lather using patting motions rather than rubbing motions. Gently pat the area dry after the bath.


Diaper rash can be treated with over-the-counter creams containing ingredients like zinc oxide and petroleum jelly. These ingredients act as skin protectants, creating a barrier between the healing skin and the diaper.


When To See a Doctor: If your baby doesn’t seem to be in pain and the rash appears mild and without complications, treat it for two or three days at home using the steps we’ve outlined above: daily baths, zinc oxide creams, and regularly changing diapers. You can monitor your progress using the Communikind App to make sure your baby’s rash is healing over time. If the rash shows signs of pimples, blisters, or puss-oozing sores, don’t attempt to treat it at home. Instead, make an appointment with your pediatrician. If the baby has a fever in conjunction with the rash, see a doctor immediately.


Heat Rash

Heat rash occurs when the sweat glands become clogged. Babies are born with sweat glands, and although newborns barely sweat because their glands aren’t completely functional, babies start sweating to cool their body over the first weeks of their life. Unlike adult sweat, baby sweat isn’t stinky, and it’s initially concentrated to the forehead rather than the underarm sweat adults develop during puberty. Still, even though baby sweat is different from adult sweat, their glands can still become clogged. The clog appears as tiny red bumps or small blisters, and shows up shortly after prolonged heat exposure.


Babies are very prone to heat rash because their sweat glands are still developing, so overtaxing your baby’s sweat glands will often lead to clogs in the glands. Just like adults, babies sweat to cool the body, and it is a sign they need help cooling down. To avoid overtaxing your baby’s glands, never allow your baby to be exposed to heat for a prolonged period of time and note that heat rash can also still develop when your baby is in the shade. Maintaining a comfortable temperature in your baby’s environment is the key to preventing excessive sweating, which causes overtaxed and clogged glands.


The best treatment for heat rash is to wash the area gently with cool water and mild soap. Then, let your baby be naked for as long as possible. This prevents clothing from rubbing against the rash, and leaves the sweat glands free to work and “breathe.” Do not apply products to a heat rash. The skin is already irritated, and topicals like lotion or baby oil will only further exacerbate that irritation.


When To See a Doctor: Heat rash should resolve within three days. If its appearance worsens, if pustules appear, or if your baby develops a fever, see your pediatrician immediately.


Cradle Cap

Cradle cap is a flaky rash that forms on a baby’s scalp. No one is quite sure why it happens, although some research suggests that it has something to do with the overproduction of sebum, a waxy, oily matter produced by your body's sebaceous glands, on the scalp.


Cradle cap manifests as crusty, scaly patches that can be seen through the hair. The worst thing about cradle cap is the aesthetics, and that’s actually good news. Your baby is never in pain from a cradle cap rash. Simply wash your baby’s hair with a very gentle shampoo. The flakes will loosen and can easily be combed away.


When To See a Doctor: You’ll almost never have to see a doctor for cradle cap - it isn’t too different from dandruff. In the event that cradle cap spreads from a baby’s scalp to their face, that’s when it’s time to see a pediatrician. Track symptoms as much as you can and share your records with the doctor.


Eczema

Eczema is an inflammatory condition of the skin that occurs as the response of an overactive immune system. In babies, eczema appears as patches of dry or red skin that is almost always rough and itchy. It can appear anywhere on their bodies, but it most often appears in the joints of their arms and legs or on their cheeks. It can appear similar to cradle cap, but eczema is typically redder and scalier than cradle cap and cradle cap is mostly seen on the scalp, eyelids, eyebrows, behind the ears, and on the sides of the babies’ noses.


Since infant immune systems are still developing, they may be quick to detect threats in the form of fragranced soaps, pet dander, or laundry detergents they come into contact with. In essence, most regular grooming products that are harmless to adults can aggravate a baby’s skin.


If your baby has eczema, switch to all-natural, fragrance-free products around your home such as this EWG-approved fragrance-free hand soap for sensitive skin or Seventh Generation’s Fragrance-Free Baby Laundry Detergent for Sensitive Skin. Eliminating all potential irritants is likely to help symptoms to subside. A good old fashioned oatmeal bath can help soothe inflamed, red skin.


When To See a Doctor: Make sure to track symptoms of eczema with Communikind and call the doctor if the irritation worsens or doesn't lessen with the elimination of fragranced products and a few skin soothing baths. The doctor may recommend oral antihistamines or topical steroid creams to treat particularly severe eczema flares.


Allergic Reaction

Eczema is technically an allergic reaction rash that can usually be safely treated at home. Other types of allergic reaction rashes, however, can be very serious.


Other allergic reactions include:

  • Papular Urticaria, a localized allergic reaction to a bug bite that resembles clusters of red bumps

  • Hives, itchy raised patches on the skin that look pink or red with a thin red border

  • Food allergies, which can present as hives, itching, vomiting, diarrhea, or bloody stool


If your baby develops a sudden rash or hives and has trouble breathing, seek emergency help immediately. Never leave an allergic reaction to chance. You will be able to investigate the cause after you seek medical care.


Chickenpox

Since the introduction of the chickenpox vaccine in 1995, the U.S. has acquired herd immunity to chickenpox and it has become exceedingly rare in infants. That being said, the vaccine cannot be administered until your child is 12 months of age, so younger infants are at the highest risk of contracting the virus. Children can get chickenpox from their mother after or during delivery, or even from someone who has shingles because shingles and chickenpox are derived from the same virus.


A chickenpox rash is very distinct, appearing as scattered itchy, dark red dots all over your baby’s skin. Before the rash appears, your baby may have a low grade fever, refuse food, and sleep excessively, and some of these symptoms can cause serious complications in your babies’ health. Make sure to track these symptoms using the Communikind App to catch chickenpox early.


You can’t treat chicken pox at home. Healthline explains that symptoms including a fever over 102 degrees, a rash in either or both eyes, a warm rash, extreme drowsiness, stiff neck, vomiting, fast heartbeat, trouble breathing, muscle tremors, and severe cough are just a few of the symptoms that can cause complications, so the moment the chickenpox rash appears, call your pediatrician.


Hand-Foot-and-Mouth Disease

As lovely as children are, they are still learning proper hygiene.. They may not be the best at washing their hands, and they often put things in their mouths that have no business being there. These are the two most common ways that hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) spreads.


HFMD is a highly contagious rash that spreads quickly across places that are regularly frequented by large numbers of children (daycares, playgrounds, pre-schools etc.). Like lice, HFMD is rapidly transmitted among young children and babies. It manifests as a rash with flat, red spots and occasional blistering that affects the hands, feet, and mouth of the child.


When To See a Doctor: Keep your baby clean and quarantined from other children if they have hand, foot, and mouth disease. The virus usually clears on its own within a week. Contact your pediatrician if your baby is refusing food or fluids, if the red spots appear to be worsening, or if they sustain a fever.


Impetigo

Impetigo is a highly contagious bacterial skin rash that occurs when bacteria enter your baby’s body through a break in the skin like scrapes, fingernail scratches, or bug bites. Outbreaks usually happen in preschools and at day cares during the summertime. Babies that come into contact with the impetigo bacteria may develop a flat, leaky rash that forms a golden crust around the edges of the lesions.


Everything that may have been exposed to the bacteria must be laundered in very hot water, and all surfaces should be thoroughly disinfected. Impetigo is so contagious it can nearly spread through a breeze. Make sure you’re keeping your baby’s space clean, and limit your exposure to the rash by wearing gloves.


When To See a Doctor: Impetigo generally requires treatment with antibiotics. You should see your baby’s doctor as soon as the rash appears.


Fifth Disease

Fifth disease is a contagious rash caused by an airborne virus. Like all airborne viruses, children can catch fifth disease when it spreads from person to person through respiratory droplets, and it can be contracted anywhere a child could come into contact with someone carrying the virus. It manifests as pink cheeks that almost look as though skin has been slapped or pinched. The rash pattern may change over time, distributing and branching out until it eventually spreads to the child’s chest.


Fifth disease usually clears on its own, and children who have it develop an immunity to it and cannot get it again. It’s particularly dangerous to children with blood disorders or compromised immune systems, as these conditions make it more difficult for a body to fight off viruses. If your baby is at a higher risk for complications because of a compromised immune system, you’ll need to take it seriously.


When To See a Doctor: If you believe your baby has fifth disease, it doesn’t hurt to call your doctor. Even if your baby doesn’t have a blood disorder or a compromised immune system, they will still benefit from a doctor’s visit.


Meningitis

Meningitis is an infection of the lining of the brain, spinal cord, and meninges. It can be viral, bacterial or fungal and cause serious complications with babies.


A meningitis rash starts as small red or brown marks that become larger and darker with time, often turning purple in color.


When to see a doctor: If you suspect your child has a meningitis rash, go to the emergency room immediately. It’s better to be proactive and wrong than to delay treatment for a potentially life threatening condition.


Final Tips

Always document rashes that appear on your baby’s skin. Take photos, write detailed notes on when and how symptoms arise, and monitor the history to create a full picture . Notes should include details on the products used that might have contributed to the rash, as well as the treatments attempted to resolve it.. All of this information can be easily input into the Communikind symptom tracker. Recording details and keeping co-parents, family, and caregivers up to date is seamless with the app. In an effort to help you stay on top of health concerns, we can also help you monitor progress through daily check-ins until symptoms have resolved.


If you have any questions about your baby’s rash or you aren’t sure what to do, make sure to call your family doctor and share the detailed information you have recorded — having photos and a clear medical history will help your medical professional provide your child with the best care. Together, you will be able to investigate and determine the presence of any underlying condition that may be contributing to the rash. When in doubt, seek a professional.


Our mission is to empower families in their health and in taking care of their loved ones by building secure, private, and personalized tools designed for families to use for daily caregiving. No one can or will be a stronger advocate for the health and wellbeing of you and your family than you and your family - you are always going to be the most invested. We help you document and monitor your holistic health overtime, keep your care family up to date seamlessly and build better health habits and knowledge so you can advocate for your needs and seek appropriate care proactively.



Sources: https://www.healthline.com/health/baby/types-of-diaper-rash

https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/eczema/colloidal-oatmeal-baths

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/meningitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20350508

https://www.cdc.gov/groupastrep/images/impetigo.jpg

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