Skin rashes in babies

It's normal for babies to develop rashes from as early as a few days old. If your baby has a rash but doesn’t show signs of illness, speak to your midwife, health visitor, or your GP. If your baby appears unwell, call your GP or GP out of hours service.

About skin rashes in babies

It's important to be aware of the symptoms of meningitis, see section below.

Also below is information on some of the most common rashes in babies. Most rashes are harmless and go away on their own.

This guide may give you a better idea of the cause of the rash. But don't use it to diagnose your baby's condition. Always speak to a health professional for a proper diagnosis.

Baby acne (neonatal acne)

Baby acne is where pimples sometimes develop on a baby's cheeks, nose and forehead within a month of their birth.  Baby’s face with red rash, acne and pimples, commonly known as ‘baby acne’

About baby acne

  • pimples tend to get worse before clearing up completely after a few weeks or months
  • washing your baby's face with water and a mild moisturiser can improve the appearance of their skin
  • avoid acne medicines intended for older children and adults

Pimples or blackheads that develop after three months of age (infantile acne) tend to be more severe. These often need medical treatment.

Cradle cap

Cradle cap is where yellowish, greasy, scaly patches develop on a baby's scalp.  Picture of baby with cradle cap

About cradle cap

  • occasionally, as well as the scalp, the face, ears and neck are also affected
  • it isn't itchy and shouldn't bother your baby- if your baby is scratching or upset, they may have eczema (see below)
  • it is a common condition that tends to develop within two or three months after birth
  • it usually gets better without treatment in a few weeks or months

Gently washing your baby's hair and scalp with baby shampoo may help to prevent further patches developing.

Eczema

Eczema is a long-term condition that causes the skin to become itchy, red, dry and cracked.

The most common form is atopic eczema. It mainly affects babies and children but can continue into adulthood.

About atopic eczema

  • eczema in babies under six months is sometimes associated with allergies to milk and egg
  • it often starts in young babies as a red, itchy rash on the face, scalp and body
  • as the child gets older, it usually starts to develop in areas with folds of skin, such as behind the knees or on the front of the elbows

Creams and ointments can often relieve the symptoms.

Erythema toxicum

Half of all newborns develop a blotchy red skin reaction called erythema toxicum. This is usually at two or three days old.

It's a normal newborn rash that won't bother your baby and clears after a few days.

Hand, foot and mouth disease

Hand, foot and mouth disease is a common, viral illness.  Picture of a baby infected with hand foot and mouth disease

About hand, foot and mouth disease

  • it causes a blistery rash on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet, as well as ulcers in the mouth
  • your baby may also feel unwell and have a fever

Treatment isn't usually needed, as the baby's immune system clears the virus. The symptoms go away after about seven to 10 days. If you're worried, see your GP.

Hives (urticaria)

Hives is also known as urticaria.  Picture showing urticarial rash

About hives

  • causes a raised, red itchy rash that appears on the skin
  • happens when a trigger (such as a food that your baby is allergic to) causes a substance called histamine to be released into their skin

If your baby gets urticaria during feeding, the condition may be triggered by something they've had to eat or drink. The most common foods are egg and milk, but many other foods can sometimes be the cause.

The urticaria rash is usually short-lived and can be controlled with antihistamines. If your baby gets hives repeatedly, it's important to see your GP to discuss possible allergies.

Impetigo

Impetigo is a highly contagious bacterial infection of the surface layers of the skin. It causes sores and blisters.

It's not usually serious, but you can visit your GP for a prescription of antibiotics. This should clear the infection within seven to 10 days.

Milia  Picture of nose showing milk spots

About half of all newborns develop tiny (1-2mm) white spots on their face. These are called milia. 

These are just blocked pores. They usually clear within the first four weeks of life.

Nappy rash

Nappy rash occurs when the skin around the baby's nappy area becomes irritated.  Picture showing nappy rash on a baby’s bottom

About nappy rash

  • is often caused by exposure to wee or poo for a long period of time
  • can sometimes be the result of a fungal infection or rare skin condition

You can usually reduce nappy rash by taking simple steps to keep your baby's skin clean and dry. You can use a barrier cream if needed. Antifungal cream may be necessary if the rash is caused by a fungal infection.

Ringworm

Ringworm is a common fungal skin infection. It causes a ring-like red rash almost anywhere on the body (the baby's scalp, feet and groin are common areas).  Picture of ringworm rash, which is usually ring-shaped, unless it's on the face, neck or scalp

It's usually easily treated using over-the-counter creams.

Ask your pharmacist if you need advice about treatment.

Scabies

Scabies is a common infestation of the skin that can affect people of all ages.

About scabies

  • it's caused by tiny mites that burrow into the skin
  • it's often spread between family members, so when babies get scabies it's usually because someone else in the family had it recently
  • babies with scabies develop tiny and very itchy spots all over the body, including on the soles of the feet, armpits and genital area

Treatment with creams that kill the scabies mite needs to be given to the whole family at the same time for it to be effective.

Visit your GP if you think your baby has scabies. It's not usually a serious condition, but it does need to be treated.

Your GP will discuss treatment with you. The treatments most widely used are a cream and lotion.

Slapped cheek syndrome

Slapped cheek syndrome is a viral infection particularly common in children and babies.

About slapped cheek syndrome

  • it typically causes a bright red rash on both cheeks and a fever
  • most babies won't need treatment, as slapped cheek syndrome is usually a mild condition that passes in a few days

Sweat rash (miliaria)

A heat rash is sometimes called miliaria or prickly heat. It may flare up when your baby sweats. For example, because they're dressed in too many clothes or the environment is hot and humid.

It's a sign your baby's sweat glands have become blocked.

They may develop tiny red bumps or blisters on their skin, but these will soon clear without treatment.

Meningitis

Meningitis is an infection of the protective membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord (meninges).

About meningitis

  • the classic rash associated with meningitis usually looks like small, red pinpricks at first
  • it then quickly spreads over the body and turns into red or purple blotches
  • it is a blotchy rash that doesn't fade when a glass is rolled over it (this won't always develop) 

​​​​ Child’s arm with a blotchy rash that doesn't fade when a glass is rolled over

Meningitis warning signs

It's important to be aware of the warning signs of meningitis in your baby, which include:

  • becoming floppy and unresponsive, or stiff with jerky movements
  • becoming irritable and not wanting to be held
  • unusual crying
  • vomiting and refusing feeds
  • pale and blotchy skin
  • loss of appetite
  • staring expression
  • very sleepy with a reluctance to wake up
  • fever 

Some babies develop a swelling in the soft part of their head (fontanelle).

Trust your instincts. If you think your baby has meningitis, see your GP or GP out of hours service immediately or go to your nearest emergency department

The information on this page has been adapted from original content from the NHS website.

For further information see terms and conditions.

Health conditions A to Z

Search by health condition or symptoms

Or find conditions beginning with …

Share this page

What do you want to do?
What is your question about?
Do you want a reply?
Your email address
To reply to you, we need your email address
Your feedback

We will not reply to your feedback.  Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

This feedback form is for issues with the nidirect website only.

You can use it to report a problem or suggest an improvement to a webpage.

If you have a question about a government service or policy, you should contact the relevant government organisation directly as we don’t have access to information about you held by government departments.

You must be aged 13 years or older - if you’re younger, ask someone with parental responsibility to send the feedback for you.

The nidirect privacy notice applies to any information you send on this feedback form.

Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.
Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.

What to do next

Comments or queries about angling can be emailed to anglingcorrespondence@daera-ni.gov.uk 

What to do next

If you have a comment or query about benefits, you will need to contact the government department or agency which handles that benefit.  Contacts for common benefits are listed below.

Carer's Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912
Email 
dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Discretionary support / Short-term benefit advance

Call 0800 587 2750 
Email 
customerservice.unit@communities-ni.gov.uk

Disability Living Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912 
Email dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Employment and Support Allowance

Call 0800 587 1377

Jobseeker’s Allowance

Contact your local Jobs & Benefits office

Personal Independence Payment

Call 0800 587 0932

If your query is about another benefit, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

Comments or queries about the Blue Badge scheme can be emailed to bluebadges@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk or you can also call 0300 200 7818.

What to do next

For queries or advice about careers, contact the Careers Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Child Maintenance, contact the Child Maintenance Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about claiming compensation due to a road problem, contact DFI Roads claim unit.

What to do next

For queries or advice about criminal record checks, email ani@accessni.gov.uk

What to do next

Application and payment queries can be emailed to ema_ni@slc.co.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about employment rights, contact the Labour Relations Agency.

What to do next

For queries or advice about birth, death, marriage and civil partnership certificates and research, contact the General Register Office Northern Ireland (GRONI) by email gro_nisra@finance-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries about:

If your query is about another topic, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

For queries or advice about passports, contact HM Passport Office.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs), including parking tickets and bus lane PCNs, email dcu@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about pensions, contact the Northern Ireland Pension Centre.

What to do next

If you wish to report a problem with a road or street you can do so online in this section.

If you wish to check on a problem or fault you have already reported, contact DfI Roads.

What to do next

For queries or advice about historical, social or cultural records relating to Northern Ireland, use the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) enquiry service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about rates, email LPSCustomerTeam@lpsni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about  60+ and Senior Citizen SmartPasses (which can be used to get concessionary travel on public transport), contact Smartpass - Translink.