Diaper Rash, Eczema, Scars, Birthmarks
Diaper Rash Happens
"Diaper rash is universal," says Dr. Brodell, who treats many children in his dermatology practice. It's caused when urine or feces rub against bare skin. Diaper rash creams -- Desitin, Balmex, A&D, Aveeno, Baby Aquaphor, Triple Paste, and creams from Huggies and Gerber, to name a few -- can cure most rashes. For prevention, use one of these creams at every diaper change to form a barrier between baby's skin and her diaper contents.
Beyond that, change diapers promptly if there's a bowel movement, and about every three to four hours even if there's not (with the exception of nighttime -- no need to wake a sleeping baby -- or yourself). If a rash appears, a bath and time playing naked, without a diaper, can help clear it up.
Some babies suffer a second-stage diaper rash, infected by yeast. If a rash reddens and worsens within a day, or if spots break out around it, see a pediatrician for the okay to use a yeast-killing antifungal cream such as Lotrimin (sold over the counter), or a prescription nystatin ointment like Mycostatin. Some doctors also recommend anti-itch cream, like hydrocortisone.
Most rashes are variations of eczema or dermatitis, terms for skin reactions to nearly any irritant. If a rash breaks out, don't panic -- it may likely disappear with the same prescription we give for diaper rash and heat rash: a bath, followed by time naked or in loose clothing.
If a rash doesn't go away in a day or gets worse, take baby to the pediatrician for evaluation. In the meantime, here are the two most common causes of eczema:
- Wetness -- for instance, from drool. Baby can get a rash if drool, milk, or even mashed baby food dribbles down his neck or chest. Solutions include using bibs and burp cloths to mop up spills, and putting a barrier cream such as petroleum jelly on baby's face or neck (just like you do for his bottom).
- Irritation from detergent, fabric, or anything touching baby's skin. Even rubbing against your clothes may give baby a rash. Solutions include using baby-friendly laundry detergent, not using fabric softener or perfume, keeping baby from scratchy fabrics such as wool, and keeping baby from areas covered in pet hair.
Scarred for Life?
Babies take tumbles and get cuts, bruises, and sometimes even stitches. But, "in general, kids heal quickly," says Dr. Brodell. Their young, thin skin is constantly shedding old layers and forming new ones, so even a bad scar may fade. Talk to your doctor about how you can help deep scars disappear.
For instance, says Dr. Brodell, previous generations believed in drying out wounds, but we now know that using a cream to keep wounds moist but clean helps them heal infinitely better.
1. Stork bites (aka salmon patches) An astounding one-third of light-skinned babies get these marks (though they can appear on babies of any skin tone), often on the nose, forehead, eyelids, or neck. The good news is that most patches fade by 18 months, if not more quickly. The exception is marks on the neck, which occasionally persist into adulthood.
2. Strawberry marks A strawberry hemangioma can be a startling birthmark, since it's generally bright red and may even bleed. It's caused by dilated blood vessels in the top of the skin. But there's no treatment necessary for a strawberry mark to fade, if not in the first few years, then usually by age 5.
3. Mongolian spots Most prevalent in babies of Asian and African ancestry, these bluish patches are usually on baby's lower back or buttocks. They, too, usually fade by about age 5.