Your baby’s rashes may look a little scary, but they rarely require immediate medical attention, says pediatrician William Sears on the website AskDrSears.com. If you spot a rash on your baby, knowing how to identify it can help you treat it effectively, figure out the likely cause of your child’s rash and determine how quickly you need to see your child’s pediatrician. If your child has a rash that persists for four weeks, you should have your doctor check it out, says Sears.
Feel the rash to see whether it’s bumpy or smooth. Ringworm, impetigo, hives and heat rash usually have raised bumps, while yeast infections and diaper rash are usually flat to touch. Eczema may show up as flat patches or raised patches, depending on how serious it is.
Consider the location. If your baby’s rash is confined to a specific area, that can give you a clue to its cause. A bright red rash in your baby’s diaper area is probably diaper rash. A scaly rash on your baby’s scalp is most likely cradle cap.
Determine whether the rash looks like welts. Welts can be large or small, symmetrical or oddly shaped, but they are usually the sign of an allergic reaction, says Sears. If your child has welts, watch carefully to see if he shows any other symptoms of a serious allergic reaction, like shortness of breath or a fever. If he does, seek medical help immediately — allergic reactions can be serious.
Consider the weather. If it’s hot or so cold that you’ve bundled your baby in lots of warm layers and her rash is made up of fine bumps, heat rash could be the cause. Helping your baby cool off is the most effective way to treat it, according to MayoClinic.com.
Look carefully at your baby’s rash. If it has patches of white or scaly skin, the culprit may be eczema. Eczema is common in babies — many of whom outgrow it — but tough to diagnose, so you’ll need to pay a visit to your pediatrician to get it checked out, recommends MayoClinic.com.
Check in with people your baby has visited recently to see if anyone has a similar rash. Your baby could have gotten a contact rash, such as chicken pox or Fifth disease, in which case you’ll need to call your pediatrician.