Skin Rashes in Infants

Skin rashes of different types may occur in infants and children due to various reasons, but usually they are not very serious.

  • Rashes in infants  may be caused by viral, fungal and bacterial infections, or due to irritation of the skin and allergies.
  • Different types of rashes include itchy red rashes; fluid filled cysts; yellow scaly rashes; milky pimples or bumps on the skin.
  • Many rashes disappear without any treatment. Some may become better with the application of moisturizers and gentle cleansing lotions.
  • Application of anti fungal and anti bacterial ointments and antibiotic therapy may be necessary in some cases. Anti-itch medication can relieve severe itching.

Diaper rash:

It is one of the most common rashes in infants. This bright red rash appearing in the diaper area is due to the irritation caused to the tender skin by the almost constant contact with excretory materials such as urine and stools. The areas of the skin which are in touch with the diaper are especially affected. It is also referred to as diaper dermatitis.

Bacterial and fungal infections can also cause diaper rash. A typical fungal infection caused by Candida gives rashes, bright red in color, along the skin creases. Tiny red spots also may be present. Diaper rash due to bacterial infections are rarer. Babies who are exclusively fed on breast milk are found to have lower incidence of diaper rash as their stools may not have as many irritating substances and enzymes as the stools of infants who take formula milk. Using highly absorbent diapers, with moisture-locking gel filling, may reduce rashes by keeping the infant dry. Frequent diaper changes, and avoiding plastic pants which keep moisture in and restrict air circulation, also may help. Most children who have diaper rash are not usually bothered by the condition.

The usual treatment for diaper dermatitis is frequent change of diapers, and allowing for air circulation in the diaper area. Mild soaps should be used to clean the affected area. Most cases of diaper rash clear up without any further treatment. Petroleum jelly, ointments containing zinc, vitamin A & D ointment, or moisturizers, can act as a barrier to moisture and may prevent rashes. If Candida infection is present, the doctor may prescribe an antifungal cream to clear up the rash. Antibiotic creams may be required to treat rashes caused due to bacterial infections.


It is a dry rash causing the skin in the affected area to appear red and scaly. It usually appears as patches at the joints of the hands and legs. Cold weather and dry climate worsens the condition. The rashes due to eczema, otherwise referred to as atopic dermatitis, may come and go without any apparent reason. Its cause is also not known. Allergy is thought to be the trigger for eczema and it is considered to be similar in origin to asthma. It usually runs in families too, much like asthma does.

Many children who have eczema in infancy and childhood may outgrow the condition eventually. However, in some cases, the episodes continue lifelong. There is no cure for eczema, but the condition can be treated with moisturizers, corticosteroid creams and the use of gentle cleansing agents. Anti-itch medication, and humidified air, may give some relief to the itching and scaling skin. Identifying triggers such as dust mites and other allergens, and avoiding them, may reduce the frequency and severity of attacks.

Cradle cap:

It is a crusty and scaling yellow and red rash often occurring on the infant’s scalp. Occasionally it may appear in some skin folds too. The cause of this condition, also referred to as seborrheic dermatitis, is not known. Infants with cradle cap do not seem to be bothered by the condition, and it usually disappears by the time the infant is six months old. Applying mineral oil to the scalp, and using shampoos regularly to wash the head, may help reduce the crusty scales. Those crusts tangled in the hair can be gently removed with a comb. A severe cradle cap which persists, and does not respond to the above measures, may require treatment with corticosteroid creams or the application of shampoos containing selenium.


It is a fungal infection affecting the skin in different parts of the body. While tinea capitis affects the skin of the scalp, tinea corporis, commonly called ringworm, appears on the body. When tinea is diagnosed in infants and children, it is treated in the same way this fungal infection is treated in adults. In some children, the condition may be worsened by an inflammatory response to the infection causing the formation of a scalp mass known as kerion. This complication requires further specialized treatment.

Molluscum contagiosum:

It is a rash caused by a virus. It appears as a cluster of pearly pimples or flesh-colored bumps, and disappears after a while without any specific treatment.


They appear as small pearly white cysts on the infant’s face in the early days of life. It is caused by the first oil secretions from the newborn’s skin glands. They disappear within days, without any treatment.

Common Viral Infections:

They are common causes of rashes appearing suddenly in infants, as well as, children. Roseola, rubella, and the infection erythema infectiosum, which is known as the fifth disease, are viral infections causing characteristic rashes. They are not serious, and do not cause much discomfort to the children. Other common rash-forming viral diseases such as chicken pox and measles are increasingly becoming rare as vaccinations against them are being widely used.

Watch This Video About Viral Skin Rashes in Babies :

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Yasser Elnahas

MD, PHD, Professor Of CardioVascular Surgery
Dr. Yasser Elnahas, Is an associate Professor of Cardiovascular Surgery. Dr. Elnahas was trained as a fellow At Texas Heart Institute And Mayo Clinic Foundation.Dr. Elnahas is dedicated to educating the general public about different disease conditions and simplifying the medical knowledge in an easy to understand terminology.

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