6 Common Newborn Rashes

Article at a Glance

  • Newborn rashes are common, and most don’t require medical treatment.
  • Rashes, like eczema, have a genetic pre-disposition and can be treated with moisturizing cream.
  • Environmental factors, such as heat and allergens, can also cause newborns to develop a rash.

Symptoms and Treatment

Newborn rashes are common, and most don’t require treatment—but they certainly can certainly cause concern for new moms and dads. If you find a rash on your baby and aren’t sure how (or if) to treat it, call us. We’re happy to answer your questions or, if needed, have you come in for an appointment.

Pustular Melanosis

Image Source: eMedicine MedScape

Pustular melanosis is a common rash that develops in newborns before they are born, and it’s seen more often in African-American babies.

  • Small pimples on the skin that are filled with a cloudy liquid
  • Some of the pimples burst before birth, leaving a dark circle or patch of skin
  • Typically found behind the ears or on the forehead, neck, back and chin
  • Does not require treatment
  • The rash typically disappears within 2 week.

Erythema Toxicum

Image Source:: eMedicine MedScape

Erythema Toxicum affects approximately half of newborns.

  • Symptoms may start within a few hours of birth
  • Red patches on the skin with white or yellow pimples
  • May develop anywhere on the body, but occurs most often trunk and never on the soles of the feet
  • Do not pop the pimples, as this increases the likelihood of an infection
  • Should disappear by the time your newborn is three to four weeks old.


Image: Copyright © Bart’s Medical Library / Phototake — All rights reserved.

Some newborns have a genetic pre-disposition to eczema, a chronic skin condition that is believed to be caused by having too few fatty cells in the skin. The skin does not retain moisture, and bacteria can penetrate the skin.

  • Symptoms typically start within a few months of birth
  • Dry, rough skin that may be crusty
  • Newborns with eczema may scratch or rub the area
  • May develop anywhere on a newborn’s body
  • In older children, the rash typically appears on the knees and elbows
  • Normally lasts until child reaches school age, but may continue into adulthood
  • Apply moisturizing cream when your baby’s skin is moist, such as after bathing – dab the skin to remove excess water
  • Use moisturizer creams one to two times each day
  • If symptoms continue, speak with your pediatrician – steroid creams may be prescribed, and your pediatrician may recommend ways to reduce triggers for eczema.

Environmental Rashes in Newborns

Some newborns develop rashes that are linked to specific environmental factors, such as heat and allergens. Here are the main culprits:

Heat Rash

Heat rashes most often develop in the diaper area, upper chest or other areas where sweat is trapped under the skin.

  • Red patches that have a slightly rough or smooth texture
  • May have small bumps or pimples on the skin
  • Does not require treatment

Contact Rash

A contact rash is an allergic reaction caused by sensitivity to a substance that touched your newborn’s skin.

  • Typically develops within hours
  • Looks similar to heat rash or ecema
  • Red and may have a scaly or rough texture
  • These rashes typically do not cause discomfort, but there may be some itching
  • Treat with a non-prescription moisturizer cream. If the rash does not improve, contact your pediatrician. Steroid creams may be prescribed to treat the contact rash.

Yeast Infection

Yeast infections develop in areas of the body that are warm and moist, such as the diaper area, in the armpits and around the neck.

  • Can look like tiny red dots scattered around or pink moist areas that look irritated
  • If you suspect that your newborn has a yeast infection, speak with your pediatrician. Medicated creams may be prescribed to clear the rash.

A Note About Steroid Creams

Your pediatrician may recommend steroid creams for your newborn’s rash. The creams work by reducing inflammation in the skin. Because inflammation is part of the body’s immune response for fighting infection, steroid creams should only be used as directed by your pediatrician and usually only applied to the skin once a day in younger children. Steroid creams should not be used for more than one to two weeks at a time, if you do not see any improvement at that point, please contact your pediatrician.

More Information About Common Newborn Rashes

  • eMedicine, March of Dimes and Parents.com are excellent resources for learning about newborn rashes.
  • You can also call us if you have questions or would like to schedule an appointment for your baby.
Reviewed on February 5, 2020 by: Joseph Hershkop, M.D.
Joseph Hershkop, M.D.
Board-certified Pediatrician

Dr. Hershkop is a former New Yorker who really enjoys working with children from birth to age three, and is passionate about asthma, ADHD care, and dermatology. Languages: English, Hebrew

Saratoga Springs Office
Full Bio

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