Arrival of a baby is accompanied by problems about which you might not have had an idea before. Your skin may be sensitive, dry, regular or oily. You probably know it very well, and know what creams to choose for its care and protection. It is time to learn something more about the very sensitive skin of your baby. What skin problems may occur in the baby and how to treat them?
Most often they appear on those parts of the body that are at risk of exposure to overheating and humidity, i.e., on buttocks and in the crotch. The bottom in a nappy is screened from the airflow, kept at a constant temperature of 37 degrees, and is often wet or damp. Such conditions are favourable for bacteria development, particularly on hot days. Bacteria and fungi that grow and multiply in such environment cause reddening of the skin.
A chafe is a local inflammation. Visible symptoms include reddening and, sometimes, swelling. It is local, and most often occurs in the area of rectum, crotch, tights and tummy. When the inflammation aggravates, lumps and little wounds, sometimes with purulent exudate, may appear. In such case it is necessary to consult a doctor! What you cannot see, but what you should be aware of when treating those lesions, is the pain accompanying that skin condition.
First step: clean the baby's bottom of bacteria. If the baby pees, wash the bottom with lukewarm water. When there is poo in a nappy, use water and a small amount of special washing gel designated for babies (maintains natural pH of the skin). Wash the gel away under warm running water (it cannot be hot). Never use soap for adults, it may only dry and irritate the skin even more. Put wet wipes aside for the time when the bottom heals and is free of any skin lesions. When chafes appear on the bottom, for cleaning the skin you can use disposable washcloth (cotton, cosmetic pads), to reach all places under skin folds.
Second step: drying. You can dry the bottom with a disposable towel. Those towels are highly absorbable and hygienic. Select a soft towel. You can also use a tetra diaper. Dry very delicately, so as not to damage the changed skin.
Third step: care. You can apply some cream to the washed and dry buttocks. Anti-chafe creams for infants contain panthenol and zinc oxide, facilitating skin recovery. Do not apply too thick a layer. Check if the skin reacts well to it. Do not use other, stronger ointments (e.g. steroid) without consulting a doctor. It may be harmful to your baby! A very good old home method is treatment with potato starch. The result is guaranteed as it was verified already by our mums and grannies.
Fourth step: some time without a diaper. When you already applied some cream to the baby's bottom, let the skin "air" a bit. It means, you should not put a new diaper immediately, but allow for about 15 minutes access of the air. This facilitates skin healing. When you omit that stage, the condition of the baby's skin can deteriorate again, because bacteria will start to multiply again. Ensure the baby is not cold during that stage. I would air even before applying the cream, as even the best cosmetics may also limit air access.
Repeat all steps every time you change a nappy, until the baby's skin heals completely. During that time you may change nappies more often than usually. Do not fasten them too tight and select most air-permeable ones.
When you notice whitish infiltration on the chafes, consult a doctor immediately. Such infiltration may be a sign of mycosis.
- lesions do not disappear after two - three days
- skin looks worse,
- lesions are extensive,
- and reccurring,
consult a paediatrician or a dermatologist.
It may also be a case of the baby being allergic to the diapers you use. Then change the brand and see the result.
It is often mistaken for sunburn, but erythema and burns differ significantly. Erythema appears in form of small spots on the baby's body. It is caused by immaturity of new-born's sebaceous glands.
An old and proven method for combating erythema is bathing a baby in starch. You should also dress the baby appropriately for the weather and the temperature at home. Do not overheat the baby.
The infant's skin is very sensitive to UV radiation. Now you probably do not think about it, but this problem will certainly become important in the summer time. The infant's skin does not tan, but is burned immediately.
Apply soothing cream to the burned place. Do not delay it, the sooner you do this, the sooner you bring relief to the baby's skin. Besides applying the cream, on that and the next day do not go out in the sun with the baby. When you go for a walk, make sure he wears a cap and clothes protecting burned body parts.
To avoid dangerous situations, apply the cream with a UV factor before each walk. The factor should be high, e.g., SPF 30, and the cream intended for infants. This protective layer should protect the delicate skin of the baby against burns.
It is better to prevent sunburns completely. Abrasions may be caused by tight clothes, diapers or shoes. When you dress the baby in too tight clothes, most often it will cause reddening on arms, in armpits or on the neck. Incorrectly fastened or selected diaper causes abrasions in the groin and tummy area. Shoes can damage the skin on feet when you put them on baby's bare feet. Those abrasions, though apparently harmless, are very painful for infants. Tight clothes also limit movement of joints, e.g. hips, and may result in their incorrect development.
Apply soothing cream, intended for infants, to the abraded areas.
To prevent skin damage, in the summer (sweat-covered skin is more easily irritated) dress the baby in clothes one size larger, simply speaking, more loose. In a shop, select diapers that are flexible and breathable. When it is hot, the baby can walk barefoot or in thin socks. But prevent bites and injuries with sharp items.
Most often it appears on the skin of baby's head. It is caused by too copious production of sebum by glands. Sebum dries and irritates the skin, and then greasy scales are formed, called the cradle cap. If you leave it untreated, scales will cover increasingly larger area, and that will make skin breathing difficult.
Mild form of a cradle cap:
First step: cover the head cosmetic oil or special formulation agains cradle cap, even a few hours before bath.
Second step: put a cap on the baby's head and wait for about 15 minutes, until the scales soften.
Third step: wash baby's hair with a baby shampoo.
Fourth step: comb the scales out. Use a soft brush, to avoid irritating the baby's skin. Do it very delicately.
The changes should disappear after a few treatments.
If a cradle cap reaches the stage when scales cover a large area of the head, forming yellow (or brown) scales, a different treatment is required:
First step: consult a doctor (paediatrician or dermatologist), although some ointments or shampoos are available OTC. Doctor's advice will help you in selecting one in a pharmacy.
Second step: Buy a formulation recommended by the doctor (often containing salicylic acid) and use it according to his/her guidelines.
Even when the changes disappear, monitor the baby's skin closely. The sooner you notice the reappearance of the problem, the easier it will be to deal with it. In advanced stage, the cradle cap may appear in other places: on the face, brows, body, in the groin area. A given skin condition may be accompanied by other ailments, e.g., diarrhoea or stomach ache.
Heat rash has a form of small pink spots, often with blisters, the size of a pin head. They can appear due to overheating, e.g., when you dress the baby in too many layers, not only in the summer. Usually they appear on the nape, the back, in the armpits, on the tummy, tights and in the groin area. A baby who does not walk should be dressed the same way as us plus one more layer. A walking and running baby should wear the same clothes as us, but you should always have some extra clothes, just in case.
Heat rash can be wiped with bicarb soda solution. Take gauze soaked with the solution and carry on! You can do it several times a day. Moreover, add potassium permanganate or normal starch to the bath. Starch is safer, as incorrectly prepared permanganate may cause serious skin burns. Place a few chips of permanganate in a jar and pour water over them, mix well, and then add a few drops from the jar to the bathtub with water, so the water is slightly tinted pink (it should not be purple). Ask a pharmacist for detailed guidelines on using it. This treatment aims at drying places where lesions appeared. Do not apply any ointment or grease to heat rash. Blocking of sweat glands may aggravate inflammation. Monitor the skin condition, and in case of no improvement, consult a doctor.
Dress the baby appropriately, or it will be overheated. I use an old, verified method to see if the baby is not too hot - I touch his nape. The skin should be lukewarm. If it is warm or moist, it means you should change something, e.g., move to a cooler place or remove one layer of clothing. The baby may be hot when on a hot day you unfold the pram hood and the air flow is insufficient. Stop using a carrier, in which the baby is at risk of burns.
A rash not always has to be a sign of an allergy. Consider whether it is not actually caused by:
- rough underwear
- incorrectly rinsed clothes
- clothes with labels, buttons or seams irritating the skin.
In such case rash will usually appear on the nape, the tummy, in the armpits or places in contact with a diaper.
Always check if the clothes you buy are made of soft natural fabrics. Check whether they do not contain items (listed above) that may irritate the baby's skin. When washing, switch on double rinsing, and iron the clothes afterwards. Due to such "treatment" the clothes will not be a carrier of bacteria.
Use only washing powders intended for children, They do not contain brighteners, enzymes, colours, etc., which may irritate the delicate skin. Powders indented for children remove stains but are mild to the skin, they do not affect natural pH.
Check whether the powder you use is certified by:
- Mother and Child Institute
- Children Memorial Health Institute
Do the same with softeners or rinse the clothes thoroughly in water.
When the skin problems recur, consider
- changing the brand of cosmetics
- changing the brand of diapers.
Before deciding to change the cosmetics, carry out a test. I applied a small amount of a cosmetic on my baby's skin, e.g., on foot, and left it for a night, and in the morning I checked the appearance of skin in that area. When there is no reddening or irritation, it means you can use that cosmetic.
If that does not help, it may turn out that skin problems are related to the baby's or your diet. In such case consult a doctor and decide together on subsequent actions.
Other skin conditions you may see in your child.
White spots on the nose or cheeks. They appear due to excessive levels of androgenic hormones and sebaceous hyperplasia. Those spots should disappear spontaneously about 5 - 6 month. If that does not happen and you are worried, consult a doctor.
Milia, i.e. blocked white lumps. They usually appear on the baby's forehead, nose, or chin. They are caused by blocking of hair follicles. Do not squeeze or pierce those lesions! To remove them, use cosmetics for infant daily care. Lesions should disappear after about two months.
Infant acne: spots, lumps, blackheads. They appear mainly on the face, sometimes you can also find them on the chest. Same as white spots, they appear due to excessive levels of androgenic hormones and sebaceous hyperplasia. To remove them, wash the infant with liquids oiling the skin (emollients). When you use those cosmetics, and acne does not disappear after about one month, consult a doctor. Consult a doctor also if the acne appears when the infant is older than four months.