Baby blemishes are inevitable but most are harmless. Here’s how to deal with the more common problems
“There are two types of birthmark to look out for,” explains Dr Tim Clayton, consultant paediatric dermatologist (dermexpert.co.uk). “Pigmented, which include moles, or vascular, which are caused by a problem with blood vessels and include strawberry marks and port wine stains. Pigmented marks are usually harmless, with the common treatment being just to observe them over time for anything unusual. Most strawberry marks are in non-prominent positions such as the neck, and by the age of 5, half of them disappear. If the mark is on a more sensitive part of the body, such as the eye, and is getting bigger, then treatment – such as using beta-blocker drugs or surgery – will be used to shrink it.”
Your little one’s skin is so sensitive it’s prone to a variety of rashes. “The newborn rash, known as erythema toxicum, is an extremely common red pimply rash that occurs all over the body 24 hours after birth,” explains Tim. “Nobody knows what causes it, but it’s completely harmless and goes away on its own after a week. It’s easy for a doctor to diagnose as the child will not have any other symptoms,” he adds.
Your little one won’t necessarily have to wait until those tricky teen years for a bout of acne – babies get it too! Tim says: “Older infants aged between 6 months and 2 years can get acne, usually on the cheeks, with spots that are red, firm and filled with pus. If it’s a severe case, the best thing is to see a dermatologist who’ll treat the problem with special creams.”
In their first year, babies typically develop rashes or spots that are totally harmless. “Milk spots, also known as milia, are small, flat, yellow pimples that appear over the nose and cheeks, and are completely normal,” explains Karina Dyer, midwife and early attachment specialist (infantaffinity.co.uk). “They’re a result of your child’s glands not developing properly, causing oil to get trapped and form spots.” But the good news is they should disappear quickly. “Your baby’s skin is just maturing, so leave it be and the milk spots will clear up on their own in a week or so,” Karina says.
How can a new mum spot signs of eczema? “Eczema affects one in five babies and consists of dry skin and an itchy, red rash. It usually appears on the cheeks, but can occur on other areas such as the elbows, arms and in skin creases,” explains Tim. “No one knows the true cause, but it’s believed to be linked to a missing protein in the skin, which causes a barrier defect. To treat it, always visit your GP who will recommend moisturisers, barrier creams and in extreme cases a steroid cream, but also make sure you avoid using products that contain fragrances or perfumes.”
Mums may find the sight of their little treasure’s angry red bottom alarming, but nappy rash is very common. “This red, inflamed rash is the result of prolonged contact between skin and urine in the nappy,” says Tim. “It usually takes a few days for the irritation to settle down, but cleaning the affected area with cotton wool and water, staying away from fragranced wipes and changing the nappy regularly will help. If the rash is really angry and persists, visit your GP who’ll provide a cream to calm it down.”
It’s natural during chilly weather to want to wrap your bundle of joy up tight, but beware – this can cause heat rash. “This is where clusters of little red bumps appear on the skin, typically under the arms and behind the knees,” explains Karina. “It happens because your child has too many layers on, has been exposed to hot weather or is left in a room where the temperature is too high. But it’s completely harmless and easy to treat. You just need to cool your baby down. Strip her off, pat her down with a damp flannel and the rash should clear within a couple of hours.”
“Cradle cap can last for up to two weeks and is where the skin on the scalp has become flaky and scaly,” says Karina. “It can look unsightly but is never painful for your little one. It’s the result of over-production of oil on the head and experts still don’t know exactly why it happens. The main thing is to never pick or scratch off the scales as this will make the skin sore. Always leave them to drop off naturally. The best treatment is to massage vegetable oil into your child’s scalp at night, then gently wash out with a mild shampoo the next morning. If it persists, go and visit your GP.”
“Robyn gets eczema in common places like the backs of her knees and the creases of her skin. We slap on plenty of Epaderm cream, prescribed by our GP, and try not to use products that are too strong when bathing her. I also make sure her skin is dried properly by patting, not rubbing. At first I was really worried, but as long as you treat it correctly it’s not a problem.”
Michala Dominey, 33, from Bishopstoke, Hampshire, mum to Ella, 5, and Robyn, 22 months
“Mia developed a strawberry birthmark in the shape of a poppy on her bum when she was just a few days old. As a new mum I freaked out and just kept slapping nappy cream on it. I would moisturise her while she was sleeping and gently rub her skin with a towel after a bath, which worked a treat. It’s really faint now, having mostly faded away by the time she was 2, but I always kept an eye on it just in case.”
Symone Darvell, 29, from Hull, mum to Mia, 2, and Ava, 1
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