Baby Rashes: 6 Causes (& When to See a Doctor)

Updated in February 2023

Baby rashes can lead to symptoms like red spots on the skin, itching and local irritation. They may be caused by certain foods, contact with plants or insect bites. 

Baby skin is thinner and more sensitive than adult skin, which is why it is easily irritated and more prone to skin symptoms.

Baby rashes can be very uncomfortable for the child, and therefore the child should be seen by a pediatrician as soon as you notice any signs of a rash. By identifying an underlying cause, treatment can be initiated. .

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Main causes

Baby rashes can be caused by: 

1. Heat

Excessive heat, caused by tight clothes or sun exposure that cover the pores, can lead to a heat rash. A heat rash is characterized by small red blisters that appear along the skin, beneath the arms and around the diaper region. This rash can itch and cause discomfort and irritation in the baby.  

What to do: It is important to dress the baby in clothes that are appropriate for the weather. Opt for clothing that is light, thin and made of cotton to prevent excessive heat. In very hot environments, you can turn on a fan or stay in the shade. To relieve symptoms, soothing, anti-histaminic creams may be prescribed by the doctor. 

2. Fabrics

Baby skin is very sensitive and may react to certain types of fabric, like wool, synthetic, nylon or flannel. These fabrics tend to interfere with normal airflow to the skin. 

What to do: You are advised to identify the type of fabric causing the baby rash so that you can avoid it when possible. Baby clothes should be primarily cotton-based, as cotton is soft and is less likely to cause rashes.

3. Chemical substances

Some types of talc. shampoo. moisturizers or fabric softeners can irritate baby skin and lead to small red spots. These may be elevated, itch and cause irritation. 

What to do: In these cases, it is important to monitor for skin changes after using any of these types of products, so that that you can avoid use and look for alternatives. In addition to relieving symptoms, the pediatrician can prescribe specific moisturizing creams, in addition to soothing creams with anti-histamines. 

4. Foods

Some foods can cause certain reactions in babies that can often be noted in the skin. These reactions can cause raised rashes that itch after eating. 

What to do: Identifying the food that triggers symptoms is advised, so that further symptoms can be prevented. If the baby is still exclusively breastfeeding, the mother should identify the food in her diet that may be causing allergies. The baby should be assessed by a pediatrician for allergy testing to identify the underlying cause of allergy. 

5. Plants or herbs

Babies can present with rashes after coming in contact with plants that release irritating substances, like poison ivy, poison oak or some citrus fruits.

What to do: It is important to wash the affected area thoroughly and to identify what causes the symptoms to prevent contact in the future.

6. Insect bites 

In some children, insect bites can cause irritation, leading to red bumps that itch. Some bug bites can be serious. 

What to do: You are advised to apply insect repellant and dress the child appropriately for environments with a higher risk of insect exposure.

When to see the doctor

It is important to see a pediatrician if you are unable to identify what is causing the baby rash and related symptoms. The main symptoms of baby rash are: 

  • Red spots on the skin
  • Itching
  • Rough, moist, dry or peeling skin
  • Small blisters or lumps
  • Crying and irritability in the baby

If you notice signs of a baby rash, it is important to have the child assessed by the pediatrician to identify an underlying cause and initiate treatment as soon as possible, to prevent complications like infections, for example.

Baby rashes from diaper use usually cause symptoms like red spots on the bottom, or around the genital area. This is usually due to ammonia irritation, which is a substance present in the urine.