What Causes Rashes on Baby Skin?

Medically Reviewed on 8/17/2022

Common and uncommon causes of baby rashes

A baby's skin is delicate and can easily break into rashes in response to various irritants. Rashes on a baby's skin may be caused by miliaria, baby oil or soaps, viruses, bacteria, fungi, excessive dryness, moisture, insect bites, food allergy and exposure to heat and sun.
Rashes on a baby’s skin may be caused by miliaria, baby oil or soaps, viruses, bacteria, fungi, excessive dryness, moisture, insect bites, food allergy, and exposure to heat and sun.

A baby’s skin is delicate and can easily break into rashes in response to various surrounding irritants. Most of these rashes do not need treatment. These go away on their own or with the application of over-the-counter creams.

Rashes on a baby’s skin may be caused by any of the following

The most common disorders that occur with a rash in a baby include the following:

  • Erythema toxicum: This is a common newborn rash. The cause is unknown. This rash doesn’t need any treatment and it disappears within a few days.
  • Diaper rash: Diaper rash can be recognized by red areas formed on the baby’s bottom. Clean the area every time the diaper is changed and wipe it dry. Over-the-counter creams can help soothe the rash.
  • Cradle cap: Seborrheic dermatitis is a condition that occurs in newborns often due to the transfer of maternal hormones to the babies. In babies, it is referred to as cradle cap. Cradle cap is characterized by greasy, yellowish crusts on the scalp. Additionally, the rash may also be found on the face, behind the ear area, and neck. This condition needs medical treatment.
  • Neonatal acne: Acne can affect not only teens and adults but also babies. Exposure to maternal hormones in the womb is the most likely cause. It does not need treatment and it usually subsides on its own within a few months.
  • Insect bites: Bites of insects, such as mosquitoes, bees, and bedbugs, can produce a rash that can be itchy, painless, or painful depending on the insect bite.
  • Food allergy: The baby may be allergic to foods such as eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, and soy.
  • Baby milia: Baby milia is a common skin rash that affects about 40 to 50 percent of newborns. The rash is in the form of multiple tiny white or yellow bumps that are about one to three millimeters in size. They are typically found on the face, particularly around the eye and nose. They are caused by blocked oil glands.
  • Eczema: Eczema is characterized by red, itchy patches that develop anywhere on the trunk and lower and upper limbs. It is caused by dry, sensitive skin. The doctor will evaluate the baby’s rash and prescribe medication, such as moisturizer and steroid cream.
  • Prickly heat: Also known as heat rash, prickly heat looks like small red bumps. Typically, areas that are prone to sweating get this rash. The neck, diaper area, and armpits are the most common areas. To prevent the rash, dress the baby in loose-fitting clothing and always keep the baby in cool and comfortable surroundings.
  • Fifth disease (or erythema infectiosum): Fifth disease is a viral illness that causes rash and fever in children, including babies. The rash is often red and typically appears on the cheeks. Additional signs and symptoms include runny nose and headaches.
  • Candidiasis: Candidiasis is a fungal infection that can develop anywhere in the body, especially in moist or hidden areas, such as the groin region. It can also be found in the mouth (oral thrush) and look like dried milk.
  • Hand, foot, and mouth disease: Hand, foot, and mouth disease is a common rash that appears in children younger than 5 years of age. The red rash appears on the skin near the hands, feet, or mouth and may blister. Other symptoms of hand, foot, and mouth disease include
  • Sixth disease (or roseola): Roseola is a self-limiting viral infection that most often affects kids 6 months of age to 2 years old. The condition is highly contagious and spreads through coughing, sneezing, or touching infected surfaces.

Other less common causes of rash in babies include the following:

If the baby develops a rash with other symptoms, such as a cold, sore throat, poor feeding, lethargy, and swelling of the face and hands, visit the doctor as soon as possible to get diagnosed and treated early.

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Medically Reviewed on 8/17/2022
Mayo Clinic. "Baby Rashes." <https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/multimedia/baby-rashes/sls-20076668#:>.

WebMD. "Your Newborn's Skin and Rashes." <https://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/baby-skin-rashes#1>.