Common Skin Conditions in Babies and Toddlers

Babies and toddlers are prone to rashes, but fret not because most skin conditions cause no harm and heal on their own. If you are feeling anxious, familiarise yourself with these skin conditions that are common in infants and tots, and learn how to handle them.

  • DIAPER RASH

When diaper rash occurs, the skin becomes very red, itchy, and inflamed. Diapers that are worn too tight or left on for too long can cause skin irritation, which may lead to diaper rash. In fact, when a baby’s skin is extra sensitive, even using a particular brand of diapers, baby wipes, or detergent can cause diaper rash.

WHAT TO DO: Change your child’s diaper as soon as it is wet. Use a warm cloth to wash and clean the diaper area. Let the diaper area air naturally for as long as possible before applying a small amount of zinc oxide cream to treat the rash.

  • PIMPLES AND WHITEHEADS

Because of exposure to their mother’s hormones, babies can actually develop acne on the face. When this happens, oil is produced in the baby’s facial glands, which can clog the pores.

WHAT TO DO: Pimples on a baby’s nose and cheeks usually clear up on their own within several weeks. If the pimples are very large or extensive, topical agents can be used for a short period of time until everything clears. You should see a doctor if the acne does not go away after a few weeks and continues to persist for months. This is unusual and may indicate an underlying medical issue.

  • CRADLE CAP

Also known as seborrheic dermatitis, cradle cap can show up during a baby’s first or second month, and it usually clears up within the first year. Cradle cap is caused by excess oil — signs include a scaly, waxy, red rash on the scalp, eyebrows, eyelids, the sides of the nose, or behind the ears.

WHAT TO DO: Use a gentle shampoo and olive oil to dislodge the stubborn scales.

  • PRICKLY HEAT

Prickly heat shows up as small pinkish-red bumps. It usually appears on parts of a baby’s body that are prone to sweating, such as the neck, diaper area, armpits and skin folds. WHAT TO DO: A cool, dry environment and loose-fitting clothes are all you need to treat prickly heat rash.

  • MILIA

Half of all newborns get these little white bumps known as milia. They usually appear on the nose and cheeks, and can look a little bit like sand. They are caused when skin flakes block oil glands, trapping the contents within.

WHAT TO DO: As the baby’s glands open up over the course of a few days or weeks, the bumps will disappear. There is no need for any treatment.

  • ATOPIC ECZEMA

When there is inflammation within the skin, babies and young children may develop atopic eczema. There is also often a genetic predisposition, which means one or both parents may have a history of eczema, asthma, or allergic rhinitis. Babies with atopic eczema usually have dry skin, and when the eczema flares up, it can look oozy and wet. Red itchy rashes may also appear on various parts of the body, including the cheeks and skin folds. In toddlers, it commonly causes fissures, or what looks like tiny cuts, at the base of the earlobes. When it is more chronic, the skin appears dry and can thicken.

WHAT TO DO: Besides seeing your doctor to get the right diagnosis and treatment, it is a good idea to use moisturisers and non-soap cleansers daily. Antihistamines may be given when required to relieve itching, and topical steroids may need to be applied to the red and rough areas until the rash clears. Although there may be some concern about the possible side effects of topical steroids, in most cases, these are very safe and effective, provided the appropriate strength is prescribed and you follow instructions.