Newborn skin is very sensitive and prone to rashes, crusting and bumps. Pediatric Partners of Augusta and Bella Bambino, our newborn care center, get many questions from parents concerned about their babies’ skin. Many neonatal rashes have a dramatic appearance, but most are benign. Here are some common newborn and infant skin issues and what you can do to protect your baby’s skin.
What is it? This skin irritation is marked by red, inflamed bumps or patches on the areas around baby’s buttocks and genitals. Fungal infections and skin inflammation caused by exposure to stool and urine are the most common causes. Sweat, harsh soaps, moisture or diapers that are too tight can cause a rash or make an existing rash worse.
How to prevent and treat? Keep baby’ diapers loose and change them as soon as he or she urinates or has a bowel movement. Always wash your hands before and after you do so. Always thoroughly dry your baby’s skin. It can help to apply petroleum jelly or zinc oxide-based cream with each diaper change. Never use talcum powder. Also, avoid baby wipes that contain alcohol and perfumes. A mild corticosteroid or antifungal cream used for short periods can speed up healing.
When to call the pediatrician? If the rash spreads, doesn’t get better within a few days or becomes oozy it’s time to see a doctor. If your baby starts running a fever, that is a sign of infection, and a trip to your pediatrician is warranted.
What is it? Neonatal dandruff (aka seborrheic dermatitis) is very common, although the cause isn’t fully known. It usually occurs in areas rich in oil glands within the first three months.
How to treat? Most cases simply require gentle washing and observation. Cradle cap clears up on its own. Petroleum jelly or olive oil can relieve some of the crusting.
Call the pediatrician? If crusting persists or gets worse, your pediatrician might prescribe an antifungal cream or shampoo.
What is it? A benign condition that affects most newborns in the first days and weeks of life. Its most common signs are yellowish papules surrounded by red skin on the face and trunk, upper arms and thighs.
How to treat? No treatment is usually needed. The rash will clear up on its own within a few weeks.
When to call the pediatrician? If your baby has symptoms, an exam can confirm the diagnosis and provide peace of mind.
General Skin Care
Babies don’t need an elaborate skin care regimen or many products. Parents should keep bathing to a minimum to avoid stripping the skin of its protective natural oils. You need to bathe your baby only two or three times a week.
Your baby’s skin is very absorbent, so use only fragrance-free, hypo-allergenic products. Perfumes and dyes can seriously irritate newborn skin.
Avoiding sun exposure is the best protection for your baby. Use clothing, hats and stroller covers anytime you take baby outside. Sunscreens are mostly harmless, but should be avoided as much as possible because the FDAA has not studied their safety in infants under 6 months of age. If sun exposure cannot be avoided, use fragrance-free, hypo-allergenic sunscreens that list zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide as active ingredients.