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Expect Bumps, Spots, and Rashes
There’s nothing quite like the soft, delicate skin of a baby. And nothing like a cranky infant irritated by diaper rash, cradle cap, or another skin condition. While your baby is perfect, your baby’s skin may not be. Many babies are prone to skin irritation in the first few months after birth. Here’s how to spot and treat common baby skin problems.
Newborns Are Prone to Rashes
The good news about your newborn’s rashes: Most cause no harm and go away on their own. While caring for baby’s skin may seem complex, all you really need to know are three simple things: Which conditions can you treat at home? Which need medical treatment? And how can you prevent baby from experiencing skin problems to begin with?
Avoiding Diaper Rash
If baby has red skin around the diaper area, you’re dealing with diaper rash. Most diaper rashes occur because of skin irritation due to diapers that are too tight; wet diapers left on for too long; or a particular brand of detergent, diapers, or baby wipes. Avoid it by keeping the diaper area open to the air as long as possible, changing your baby’s diaper as soon as it’s wet, washing with a warm cloth, and applying zinc oxide cream.
Pimples & Whiteheads
Baby acne gets its start in the womb, where baby is exposed to mom’s hormones. Those hormones boost oil production, clogging baby’s oil glands. Pimples on baby’s nose and cheeks usually clear up by themselves in a few weeks. So you don’t need to treat baby acne or use lotion.
Lots of babies have birthmarks — more than one in ten as a matter of fact. Birthmarks, areas of skin discoloration, are not inherited. They may be there when your baby is born, or they might show up a few months later. Generally birthmarks are nothing to worry about and need no treatment. But if your baby’s birthmark worries you, talk to your pediatrician.
Atopic Dermatitis or Eczema
Eczema is an itchy, red rash that occurs in response to a trigger. It is common in children who have a family history of asthma, allergies, or atopic dermatitis. Eczema may occur on baby’s face as a weepy rash. Over time it becomes thick, dry, and scaly. You may also see eczema on the elbow, chest, arms, or behind the knees. To treat it, identify and avoid any triggers. Use gentle soaps and detergents and apply moderate amounts of moisturizers.
Baby’s Dry Skin
You probably shouldn’t worry if your newborn has peeling, dry skin – it often happens if your baby is born a little late. The underlying skin is perfectly healthy, soft, and moist. If your infant’s dry skin persists, talk to your baby’s pediatrician.
Excess Oil Causes Cradle Cap
Cradle cap can show up during baby’s first or second month, and usually clears up within the first year. Also called seborrheic dermatitis, cradle cap is caused by excess oil and shows up as a scaly, waxy, red rash on the scalp, eyebrows, eyelids, the sides of the nose, or behind the ears. Your pediatrician will recommend the best treatment for cradle cap, which may include a special shampoo, baby oil, or certain creams and lotions.
Prickly Heat Causes Irritated Skin
Showing up as small pinkish-red bumps, prickly heat usually appears on the parts of your baby’s body that are prone to sweating, like the neck, diaper area, armpits, and skin folds. A cool, dry environment and loose-fitting clothes are all you need to treat prickly heat rash — which can even be brought on in winter when baby is over-bundled. Try dressing baby in layers that you can remove when things heat up.
Infant Skin Doesn’t Need Powdering
Babies can inhale the very fine grains of talcum powder, which could cause lung problems. So it’s best to avoid using talcum powder on your infant. A corn starch-based powder is considered safer. But yeast, which can cause diaper rash, feeds on corn starch. So to protect baby skin, you’re better off skipping the powder.
Newborn Skin: White Bumps (Milia)
As many as one in two newborns get the little white bumps known as milia. Appearing usually on the nose and face, they’re caused by skin flakes blocking oil glands. Milia are sometimes called “baby acne,” but baby acne is related to hormonal changes. In this case, baby skin care is easy: As baby’s glands open up over the course of a few days or weeks, the bumps usually disappear, and need no treatment.
Baby Yeast Infections
Yeast infections often appear after your baby has had a round of antibiotics, and show up differently depending on where they are on your baby’s skin. Thrush appears on the tongue and mouth, and looks like dried milk, while a yeast diaper rash is bright red, often with small red pimples at the rash edges. Talk to your pediatrician: Thrush is treated with an anti-yeast liquid medicine, while an anti-fungal cream is used for a yeast diaper rash.
Laundry Tips for Baby Skin Care
Avoiding skin rashes will keep your baby smiling and happy: Use a gentle detergent to wash everything that touches your infant’s skin, from bedding and blankets, to towels and even your own clothes. You’ll cut down on the likelihood of baby developing irritated or itchy skin.
Yellow Skin Can Mean Jaundice
Usually occurring two or three days after birth, jaundice is a yellow coloration that affects baby’s skin and eyes. It’s common in premature infants. Caused by too much bilirubin (a breakdown product of red blood cells), the condition usually disappears by the time baby is 1 or 2 weeks old. Treatment for jaundice may include more frequent feedings or, for more severe cases, light therapy (phototherapy).
The sun may feel great, but it could be exposing your baby’s skin to the risk of damaging sunburn. Avoid baby skin problems by protecting from sunburn: keep your infant out of direct sunlight during the first six months of life. Later, use a strong baby sunscreen, hats, and umbrellas. For mild infant sunburn apply a cool cloth to baby’s skin for 10-15 minutes a few times daily. For more severe sunburn, call your child’s pediatrician.
Baby Sunscreen and More
Apply sunscreen to the areas of baby’s skin that can’t be covered by clothes. You can also use zinc oxide on baby’s nose, ears, and lips. Cover the rest of your baby’s skin in clothes and a wide-brimmed hat. Sunglasses protect children’s eyes from harmful rays.
Baby Skin Care Products
Shopping for baby skin care products? Less is more. Look for items without dyes, fragrance, phthalates and parabens — all of which could cause skin irritation. When in doubt, talk to your pediatrician to see if a product is appropriate for newborn skin.
Avoiding Skin Problems at Bath Time
Remember, newborn skin is soft and sensitive. Keep baby’s skin hydrated by bathing in warm water for only three to five minutes. Apply a baby lotion or moisturizer immediately after bath while skin is still wet, and then pat dry instead of rubbing.
If rashes or other skin conditions are making your baby irritable, try baby massage. Gently stroking and massaging baby’s skin can not only help boost relaxation, but it may also lead to better sleep and reduce or stop crying, according to a recent study.
When to Call the Pediatrician
Most baby skin rashes and problems aren’t serious, but a few may be signs of infection — and need close attention. If baby’s skin has small, red-purplish dots, if there are yellow fluid-filled bumps (pustules), or if baby has a fever or lethargy, call your pediatrician for medical treatment right away.
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