Photo by: iStock

Baby 101: Rash Rundown

by Kathryn Walsh of "Mamapedia"
Photo by: iStock

Is that dry skin, normal diaper rash or a rare and deadly infections? It’s almost certainly not the latter, which is good news for moms who tend to imagine the worst. Babies are prone to several types of rashes and they’re almost all harmless. But many of the most common rashes do cause irritation, so don’t ignore any red, bumpy or scaly patches you spot on that deliciously smooth skin.

Cradle Cap
If you notice scaly or crusty patches on your baby’s scalp, don’t panic. It’s probably just cradle cap, a harmless rash that may be caused by an overproduction of oil. Cradle cap usually appears on the scalp, but may also occur on your baby’s neck or armpits. Washing his hair with shampoo, gently loosening the scales with a soft brush and applying petroleum jelly to the area should clear up the rash fairly quickly.

If you’re prone to dry patches of itchy skin, your baby may be too. Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, tends to run in families. “Eczema rashes usually appear behind the ears, behind the knees and in the folds of the arms,” says master herbalist Sara-Chana Silverstein, who’s also a lactation consultant and mother of seven. “This rash is very itchy, red and can bleed or ooze.”

Hydrocortisone can be very effective in treating an eczema flareup, but Sara-Chana warns that the rash may reappear when you stop applying the cream. She recommends her clients use plantain oil with essential oil of carrot seed to soothe eczema, but you should consult your pediatrician about the best course of treatment for your baby’s case.

Diaper Rashes
Diaper rash is a very common affliction, characterized by red or scaly skin on your baby’s bottom, genitals and thighs. It usually develops when your baby wears a wet or soiled diaper for too long and his skin gets irritated. Changing his diapers as soon as they’re dirty and applying an over-the-counter diaper cream will clear up many cases of diaper rash.

In some cases, diaper rash gets worse over time because of an overgrowth of a fungus called Candida. Those cases require more treatment. If you see a raised red border develop around the rash, call the pediatrician. He may prescribe an anti-fungal medication.

Sara-Chana sees lots of moms whose babies have rashes caused by fungus. She suggests a natural alternative to medications. “Green clay used as a powder will smother the yeast and heal the skin,” she says. But it’s worth talking to your pediatrician before you use any products on your baby’s rash.

Heat Rash
On steamy days, you may notice red patches form on your baby’s face and body. Heat rash happens when a baby’s sweat glands are blocked. It’s especially common around the neck, arms, thighs and genitals because of the skin folds in these areas. Take your baby to a cool room and undress him. Turn on a fan or air conditioning, or wipe him down with a cool wet washcloth and let his skin air dry. The rash should go away as he cools down.

Other Rashes
It’s possible for your baby to have diaper rash on his bottom, cradle cap on his scalp and something else altogether on his arms. Rashes can be caused by a variety of causes, including food and medication allergies, infections and viral diseases. Call your pediatrician anytime a rash appears without an obvious cause, or if your baby’s rash persists for three days or more.

Kathryn Walsh is a freelance writer specializing in parenting and travel topics. Her work has appeared on,, and

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