Rash in new-borns

Babies get a lot of rashes, especially in the first few weeks. They might frighten new parents but are mostly harmless.

Marbling

This isn’t a rash, really. It’s transient changes in the blood flow to the skin. It’s thin vessels reacting to cold. (So warm up your baby.) It stops doing this in a few weeks, usually, though sometimes it takes longer.

Harlequin

Named after a clown character in literature, this is a momentary color change on the right or left half of your newborn. It’s divided clearly along the midline. It looks quite dramatic, but it’s not dangerous. It happens in about 10% of babies. It stops in a couple weeks.

Red-speckled rash

‘Erythema neonatorum’ sounds dreadful, but it just means ‘redness of newborns’. Easily half of all babies get it in their first few days, particularly those born to term. No one knows why. Doctors give it a week or so to clear up, though it may make another appearance or two after that. It doesn’t cause or signify any problem.

Pimples

Yes, babies get acne – about 20% of the time.

It’s little white comedones, usually in the forehead, nose and cheeks.

It probably comes from normal hormonal action on sebaceous glands.

As with all acne, a little benzoyl peroxide wash might help. Generally, though, doctors leave it to go away by itself.

Milia

These are millimeter-sized pearly-yellow keratin bumps, usually on the forehead, cheeks, nose and chin. About half of all babies get these. They go away in a couple of months.

Miliaria

People call this ‘sweat rash.’ It’s immature ‘eccrine’ sweat glands, that are closed when they should be open. You see it in about 40% of newborns, up to the age of about a month. It can vary in appearance, sometimes blistering. It can look awful, but it’s harmless, and it will go away. You can help your baby cool down by taking off a layer of clothes. A lot of us do tend to overdress our children anyway. Cool baths are nice too.

Seborrhea

This is ‘cradle cap’, the greasy, yellow scalp scales that newborns get. It’s a dermatitis, a baby’s version of dandruff. It doesn’t itch, and it goes away gradually within the year, as a rule. There’s no need to treat it. If you want to try a home remedy, like you see in magazines, just run it past your doctor first.

Cradle cap is not the same as childhood eczema. Have a look at our ‘atopic dermatitis’ section to read about that.

Questions about your skin? Ask our dermatologists online for $35.