When you bring your new baby home you are completely unaware of the many problems that could arise at any time. Many new parents panic at the first sign or symptom of anything out of the ordinary. While you may not be a doctor and there may be things that you are unsure of, being well-informed is the first step. Once you know the basic issues that arise with new babies, what to look for, and how to treat them, you will be able to stay calm rather than running to the ER for every little cough, sniffle, or rash.
Because babies have the most sensitive skin you will ever see, they are prone to all kinds of skin irritations and infections. Knowing how to know what those bumps or red spots on your baby are will help you to know how to proceed. Here is a list of some of the most common skin problems that babies face, what they are, and what action to take.
The What: Cradle cap is a fairly common disorder among infants. The clinical name for it is seborrheic dermatitis, but it’s basically a very waxy rash that almost looks like scales. For the most part the rash only appears on the baby’s scalp, but in some cases it spreads down the face and even to the genital area. Cradle cap can appear pretty much anytime between birth and 1 year and with persistence, is fairly easy to treat. Once you get rid of it, however, you’ve got to be diligent about keeping baby’s head clean and moisturized. Cradle cap is one of the skin conditions that looks pretty serious and can be frightening if you don’t know what it is. Rest assured that it looks much worse than it is; it doesn’t hurt your baby and needs to be cleaned up rather than “cured.”
The How: In most cases, a shampoo containing selenium (diluted with water for baby’s gentle skin) will do the trick. Rub the shampoo onto baby’s head and gently brush in a circular motion with a baby brush, or even a soft-bristled (clean and unused) toothbrush. Some doctors even recommend using baby oil to help loosen the dry skin before brushing it. If the problem persists, you may want to see your pediatrician. They can often offer medicated shampoos or ointments to help treat the rash in a more aggressive manner.
The What: Even if you’ve never had a baby until now, diaper rash is definitely something you’ve heard quite often. Obviously a diaper rash is a rash in the diaper area, but what actually is it and how does it occur?
Diaper rash or diaper dermatitis is a red, irritating infection of the diaper area often accompanied by small bumps that look like pimples. In some cases, the fungus known as candida accompanies the rash. This fungus grows and thrives in places that are warm, wet, and dark; like the inside of a diaper. The rash is generally the worst around the lower part of baby’s abdomen, his genitalia, and in between skin folds.
The most common cause of diaper rash is having wet or soiled diapers on baby’s skin for a prolonged amount of time. Urine and stools irritate the skin, and the moisture allows for bacteria to grow very quickly. Other causes may be from an allergy to something in the diaper. If you use cloth diapers, it’s likely that the soaps and softeners that you use to wash them could be irritating baby’s skin. Also watch for signs of irritation after using lotions, creams, or powders, as many babies react to these as well.
The How: In order to treat diaper rash, you first have to figure out what is causing it. First and foremost, start changing your baby’s diaper more frequently. Use a soft cloth or cotton pads in warm water to clean the diaper area at every change. Be sure to thoroughly dry the area by dabbing with a soft dry cloth. Do not rub the skin, and be sure to dry in between skin folds.
If using cloth diapers, try changing the detergent you use to something more sensitive, and possibly without added fragrance. If you had begun using new creams or other products on baby before the rash occurred, stop using them and switch to something 100% natural (no harsh chemicals or additives) to help treat the area.
The What: Eczema or atopic dermatitis is a fairly serious but also somewhat common condition among babies and children. The condition causes extremely dry skin that is overly sensitive and very itchy. In seventy percent of cases, the child has a family history of problems such as eczema, asthma, and different types of allergies. Eczema is mainly a genetic disorder, but can often be triggered or worsened by irritants. In ninety percent of cases, the eczema strikes before three years of age.
On infants, eczema shows up as a raised red area that is often inflamed. The areas are extremely dry but sometimes will have “weeping,” which is an oozing of pus from the area. It usually shows up on the arms, legs, neck or even face.
The How: Because eczema makes sensitive baby skin even more sensitive, you have to be extremely careful about what types of products you use. Stick with soaps and lotions that are gentle or sensitive, as well as fragrance and alcohol free. Also consider using products that are 100% natural or organic. Also keep this in mind when selecting the detergents to be used on baby’s clothing and the types of diapers that you purchase.
Because eczema can occur in a variety of different ways, you should see your pediatrician if you suspect that this is what your child has. In some cases, prevention is all it takes, but aggressive action is sometimes needed. Your child may need to be treated with antihistamines, topical steroids, or even antibiotics.