Common skin conditions in newborn babies

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Does your baby have strange bumps, spots, marks, freckles and rashes on her body? Find out more about common skin conditions your newborn may experience and how you can treat them

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It’s common for newborn babies to have skin conditions

Once your little one is born and the sleepless nights begin, you might glance at your reflection in the mirror and long for the days your skin was clear, smooth and soft like a baby’s bottom.

But what if your bub’s skin is far from perfect and she appears to have some strange marks, bumps, blisters, freckles, spots and rashes?

Which skin conditions are normal and when will they require medical treatment?

Read our guide to the various skin conditions that are commonly found in newborns.

Cafe-au-lait spots

What it looks like: Flat spots that are usually oval in shape and may look like a normal type of birthmark, but have distinct edges that are a bit darker (usually the colour of coffee with milk, thus the name) than the surrounding skin.

Although these spots themselves are harmless, if some of the spots are bigger than a 50 cent coin, then it could be due to Neurofibromatosis (NF), which is a genetic disorder of the nervous system that causes abnormal cell growth of nerve tissues or benign tumours to form on the nerves anywhere in the body at any time.

The occurrence of Café-au-lait spots varies with race as such:

  • 0.3% of Caucasian
  • 0.4% of Chinese
  • 3% of Hispanic
  • 18% of African American

How to treat it: No medical treatment is required, but it would take laser surgery to help fade the spots.

Port-wine stains

What it looks like: A birthmark that really looks like red wine was been splashed onto your baby’s skin and has literally stained it — the marks might be pink at birth but tend to become darker with age, turning reddish-purple or dark red.

These marks occur when an area of skin has an insufficient supply of nerve fibres (which normally help to keep blood vessels narrow), so small blood vessels (or capillaries) will expand, allowing a greater amount of blood to flow in, thus causing a “stain” to form under the skin.

This condition is not preventable, nor is it due to anything you did while you were pregnant.

How to treat it: Laser treatment can be started in infancy which can help fade away the marks. It is also important to keep your baby’s skin well-moisturised as these marks tend to be quite dry.

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Wash your baby’s skin with warm water and mild soap to keep milia at bay

Milia

What it looks like: Little white bumps around the nose, chin or cheeks and sometimes on the upper trunk and limbs.

This is caused by tiny skin flakes that become trapped in small pockets near the surface of the skin.

As much as you may feel tempted to squeeze or scrub away at the bumps, avoid doing this as it could cause more irritation or even an infection.

However, milia will usually clear up on its own within several weeks or months.

How to treat it: Wash your bub’s face everyday with warm water and mild baby soap and gently pat her skin dry; you should also avoid using any lotions or oils on the affected area.

Pustular melanosis

What it looks like: Small blisters that peel open to reveal a small freckle inside, after which some flat, dark spots may occur — commonly found under the chin, at the back of the neck, on the forehead, the lower back, or the shins.

This benign skin condition is usually seen in babies with a darker skintone, and in most cases is present from birth.

However, if you notice any blisters on your baby’s skin, you may want to get it checked out to ensure that it’s not due to an infection such as herpes or staph.

How to treat it: No medical treatment is necessary and you can expect it to fade within three months.

 

Heat rash

What it looks like: Cluster of of tiny itchy bumps or small blisters that may be red around the folds of your bub’s skin or other parts of her body especially where her clothes might fit snugly.

When your baby sweats too much due to hot and humid weather that her pores clog up, a heat rash will develops because sweat is unable to get out.

Babies are more prone to getting heat rash than adults because their pores are smaller.

How to treat it: Dress your baby in loose clothing; keep her cool; after a bath, let her air dry instead of using a towel; avoid applying any creams or lotions to the affected area.

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Cradle cap can be easily treated at home with shampoo or mineral oil

Cradle cap

What it looks like: Crusty or oily patches on your baby’s scalp which may also look like scales, and a possible mild redness.

Although this condition isn’t painful or itchy, it can cause flaky white or yellow scales that difficult to remove, but should not be scratched.

It is believed to be caused by hormones that are passed from you to your little one even before birth, which can cause too much production of oil (otherwise known as sebum) in the oil glands and hair follicles.

It could also be due to a yeast (fungus) called malassezia which grows in the sebum, as well as bacteria – but it isn’t contagious, nor is it due to poor hygiene.

How to treat it: Wash your bub’s hair daily with a medicated shampoo or mineral oil; use a special lotion for cradle cap; and brush her hair with a soft brush to help loosen the scales.

 

Erythema toxicum

What it looks like: A rash of tiny firm bumps that are yellowish or white and surrounded by a ring of redness — these are also sometimes filled with a fluid which although resembles it, isn’t pus.

Sometimes there might not be any bumps at all and only a splotchy redness on your baby’s skin which usually appears on the face, chest, arms, and legs — but not the palms of soles of her feet.

It is not known what causes this skin condition and no bacteria or viruses are found in the rash area, but it is not contagious.

How to treat it: No special medical attention or treatment is required and usually just goes away on its own by the time your baby is one to four months old.

 

Hemangiomas

What it looks like: Resembles a small bruise, scratch or tiny red bump.

Otherwise known as a “strawberry mark,” it is a very common type of birthmark that’s made of blood vessels.

Commonly seen on the scalp, face and neck, these bumps will grow and change during your baby’s first few months of life.

This condition is more common in girls than boys and is more often seen in Caucasian children — although it is also seen more frequently in babies who are born with a low birth weight, or those who are born a few weeks earlier than their due date.

How to treat it: You will need some professional medical treatment for this skin condition, although surgical removal and laser therapy are also options to help treat it.

 

newborn jaundice and breastfeeding

Jaundice

What it looks like:  A yellowish hue to your baby’s skin and eyes.

A fairly common condition, this is due to an excess of bilirubin (a yellow-colored pigment of red blood cells) in your baby’s blood.

Jaundice usually happens because your little one’s liver isn’t mature enough to get rid of bilirubin in the bloodstream.

Babies who are born before 38 weeks (preterm babies) and some breast-fed babies are often more susceptible to jaundice.

How to treat it: Light therapy (phototherapy) and more frequent feedings to help your bub eliminate more bilirubin in her stool.

Petechiae

What it looks like: Tiny, flat red (and sometimes purple or brown) pin-prick spots that appear in clusters and looks like a rash.

You can identify if your little one has petechiae by applying gentle pressure on the spots and if they don’t turn pale (non-blaching) then this will confirm her skin condition.

These spots are usually not itchy and often appear on the face, arms, stomach, chest, bottom and feet.

They occur when the blood vessels under the skin bleed, thus leaking blood into the skin — this could be due to:

  • Excessive crying
  • Violent vomiting
  • Prolonged coughing
  • Sunburn

How to treat it: If your baby’s petechiae appears after some physical trauma, it should go away after a few days — but if you are not sure what caused it, then you should bring her to seek medical attention.

 

Stork bites

What it looks like: Flat, dull pink patches that usually appear at the nape of the neck (thus the name!), between the eyebrows, over the eyelids (otherwise known as “angel kisses”), around the nose or mouth.

Also known as “salmon patches”, these are caused by dilated capillaries in the skin which at times may get redder or darker when your little one cries, is excited, or upset.

This condition is quite common and occurs in about 7 in 10 babies.

How to treat it: No treatment is necessary as these marks will naturally go away on their own within one to two years.

 

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Newborn babies might get acne just like teenagers

Baby acne

What it looks like: Pimples which can be found on the chin, forehead, eyelids, cheeks, head, neck, back or upper chest.

Caused by mummy’s maternal hormones that are still circulating in your baby’s bloodstream, this will stimulate your little one’s sluggish oil glands which causes pimples to appear.

Contrary to what some might think, baby acne does not necessarily mean that your child will grow up to have more skin woes during her teenage years in future.

How to treat it: Cleanse the affected area with water about two to three times a day and gently pat dry with a towel; avoid using any soap or lotion; and do not squeeze the pimples.

 

Diaper rash

What it looks like: Red and raw looking rash around the diaper region, such as the genitals and bottom.

Many babies will get diaper rashes which could be due to several reasons including:

  • Wearing a soiled diaper for too long
  • Rubbing or chafing against the diaper
  • Yeast infection
  • Bacterial infection
  • Allergic reaction to the diaper
  • Diarrhea
  • Antibiotics passed to your baby through your breastmilk

How to treat it: Change your bub’s diaper often and keep the area dry; use a good diaper rash cream; opt for mild, unscented wet wipes; let junior go diaper-free as often as possible.

Eczema

What it looks like: Red, weepy and itchy dry skin with prominent skin lines.

When your baby’s skin is very dry, or she comes in contact with any irritating substances or allergic triggers, or when her skin is infected, this can cause an eczena flare-up.

Other triggers can also include pets, carpet, dust mites, certain fabrics, cigarette smoke, perfume, laundry detergent and air freshener.

How to treat it: Although there is no cure for eczema, it can be controlled by using anti-inflammatory medications; short warms baths (instead of showers); forgoing any bath additives; and keeping the skin moisturised.

 

newborn peeling skin

Peeling

What it looks like: Dry skin which is peeling or flaking away.

Babies are naturally covered with vernix, which is a thick coating that protects their skin from amniotic fluid in the womb.

Once the vernix is gone, your little one will begin to shed the outer layer of her skin, usually within one to three weeks.

How to treat it: Keep bath times short, as the water will wash away even more of your bub’s natural oils; use warm water and fragrance-free soap; and apply baby cream or lotion immediately after bath time to lock in moisture.

 

Mongolian spots

What it looks like: Large blue or gray marks that look a lot like bruises, but are not painful, which may appear on your baby’s back, bottom, or legs.

This common condition is due to a large concentration of melanocytes (cells that contain dark pigment) that collect beneath your little one’s skin.

It mostly affects babies of colour such as Asians, Native Americans, Hispanics and those of African descent.

How to treat it: There is no need to treat mongolian spots as they will eventually go away by the time junior starts school.

 

When should you be concerned?

Although some of these skin conditions are fairly common in babies, it is important that you closely monitor your little one and watch out for any serious signs such as:

  • Irritability (inconsolable crying or screaming)
  • Lethargy
  • Cold extremities
  • Fever
  • Bleeding from the affected area
  • Oozing pus
  • The condition seems to be spreading or getting worse

If your little one’s skin conditions are accompanied by any of these symptoms, it is highly recommended that you seek professional medical advice to rule out any underlying health issues.

 

Does your baby have any of these common skin conditions? What did you do to treat it? Share your tips with other parents by leaving a comment below!

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