You haven’t slept for more than an hour at a time in over three days, and you hear your little bundle of joy crying on the baby monitor again. Only this time, when you stumble into the nursery to go pick him up, you see red splotches and spots all over his face. Instantly you’re wide awake and deciding whether or not you should call your pediatrician.
I can relate, and I know that feeling of helplessness when one of your babies is sick. Even the most level headed among us will start to fear the worst and blame themselves for letting it happen.
Unless you’re a first time parent, you know that rashes are nothing new for babies.
Their skin is so much more sensitive than ours, and problems are inevitably going to pop up.
There are a number of common skin ailments that could be the culprit – so take it one step at a time, gather the facts, and your little one will be feeling better in no time.
Is It Actually A Teething Rash?
Rashes come in all shapes and sizes, and are caused by different things.
Some are bacterial, some are fungal, and others are viral. Some cover the whole body, while others will stay in one localized area.
By examining the rash along with any accompanying symptoms, you can generally get a good read on which one it is.
Even if your baby is in the middle of a teething super-storm, you can’t just assume that what you’re seeing is teething rash.
Let’s take a quick look at a few types of infant rashes listed by the National Institutes of Health:
– Contact Dermatitis – More children deal with allergies than ever before, and sometimes all it takes is a metal button or a new brand of crib sheet for a baby to develop a nasty looking rash.
– Cradle Cap – Also known as seborrheic dermatitis, cradle cap causes crusty patches on a baby’s head, but can also make red patches show up on the face among other places.
– Diaper Rash – By far the most frequently reported rash is caused by an infection called candida, which is known as diaper rash when found in the diaper region, but called thrush when it occurs in a baby’s mouth. Candida is a type of yeast infection, and it can be found on the face as well.
– Eczema – Tougher to treat is eczema, which is usually scaly or flaky in appearance, but can occasionally present as red splotches. Eczema is easily mistaken for teething rash when it presents as red splotches.
– Heat Rash – For me, putting my son in a cute pair of footie pajamas on a warm night resulted in a full torso heat rash. Such little bodies can overheat quickly, resulting in a rash popping up in a matter of hours. It can look similar to teething rash, both in appearance and location.
Note from Dr. Leah Alexander, M.D., F.A.A.P.: “The kind of rash I see in clinical practice that is associated with teething is a contact dermatitis from saliva/drool on the skin.
The digestive enzymes in saliva irritate the skin after prolonged contact.
The most commonly affected areas are the cheeks and chin, made worse by the infant chewing on his/her fingers and spreading the saliva onto the face.
When there is profuse drooling, this rash can be see on the neck, fingers and chest.
Basically, the rash forms anywhere there is excessive skin contact with saliva.”
Where Is Teething Rash Located?
Just as there are a lot of possible types of rashes, there are an equally wide variety of places where rashes crop up.
Teething rash is most often found anywhere there’s an excess of drool.
This (most of the times) means the cheeks and chin, but also sometimes on the neck and chest as well.
What Does The Rash Look Like?
For most babies, teething rash appears as red splotchy skin, which can be raised or swollen at times.
It may look slightly different depending on the exact location on the body.
The skin of the cheeks varies from the skin of the neck or the chest, both in thickness and sensitivity.
Does It Bother Your Little One?
Common knowledge says a great deal of serious symptoms are due to teething, but much of this is being proven false.
One modern study by the Cleveland Clinic found that “increased biting, drooling, gum-rubbing, sucking, irritability, wakefulness, ear-rubbing, facial rash, decreased appetite for solid foods, and mild temperature elevation” were all found in the few days before and after the appearance of a new tooth.
However, many more serious consequences such as high fevers, diarrhea, and vomiting were not directly linked to teething.
While these results are interesting, there is still ample evidence of discomfort.
So even though you might be exhausted and overwhelmed while dealing with your teething tot, they are probably feeling worse.
Note from Dr. Leah Alexander, M.D., F.A.A.P.: ” The AAP has a nice checklist of what are considered teething symptoms and which are not.
For example, the association of diaper rash with teething is a myth.
What Is Teething Rash?
Also known as drool rash or dribble rash, teething rash is the effect of excessive moisture on the skin.
It is associated with teething because your baby can be a drooling machine when getting new teeth.
A seemingly never ending faucet of drool can soak faces, clothes, bibs, and bed sheets.
Some babies have more rolls in their skin than the Michelin Man (no judgement here, just saying), and moisture gets trapped inside them easily.
All this drool keeps the skin overly wet, and the friction from when your baby rubs and pulls at their teeth makes the skin even more aggravated.
Soaked clothes and sheets can add to the discomfort, especially with an irritable baby who is prone to tossing and turning frequently.
How Serious Of A Problem Is It?
Well, the good news is that teething rash is usually a short lived issue, which causes easily managed symptoms.
Any rash can be scary to a parent, but with proper care it comes and goes along with the new teeth it accompanies.
This is not always the case, however.
In certain circumstances when the rash goes untreated for too long or the wetness which causes it is allowed to persist, more serious issues can arise.
Inflamed or irritated skin can get infected if it gets scratched or cut.
Babies have notoriously sharp little fingernails which can easily cause a cut when rubbed over the rash regularly.
One common skin infection in babies is impetigo, which is caused by bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus.
Although not painful, impetigo can be very itchy for your tiny tot.
Impetigo is highly contagious and requires a course of antibiotics. Once a cut or open wound is formed any bacteria has a way in, which is why proper care is essential.
How Do I Treat Teething Rash The Right Way?
Fortunately, there are very simple ways to take care of your baby’s teething rash.
1) Dry It Off
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the way to deal with too much drool and moisture is to dry it off.
Less obvious to most people is the right way to do the drying, though.
If you rub off the drool you can end up making the rash worse from the friction of the rubbing.
If you use scented tissues or wipes, the added fragrances can aggravate the skin further.
When drying off teething rash, be sure to gently pat the areas with something soft and unscented.
2) Cool It Down
Rashes can be itchy and sore, but a cool teether or washcloth can help alleviate some of the symptoms for a while.
Direct ice or frozen teethers may be too much for the sensitive skin, so try to avoid them.
Your little one will appreciate the coolness, both on the rash and on their sore gums.
3) Keep It Clean
In addition to keeping the rash dry, gentle cleaning is also important.
Again, no scented body wash or wipes. Just a soft cloth and cool water is best.
Once a rash is present, and especially if any scratches or cuts have opened up, making sure the area is kept clean can prevent any more serious infections.
4) Grease It Up!
This one may sound odd, but it is the secret weapon that every parent needs to have when caring for a rash.
A number of ointments and thick creams are available for use on babies including lanolin, A&D, butt cream, Aquaphor, and even good old petroleum jelly.
It’s all about creating a moisture barrier for the skin which is also safe for the baby if any gets in their mouth.
How To Prevent Teething Rash From Happening
Teething is a rite of passage for every baby, but an accompanying rash doesn’t have to be.
The following are four tips parents have come up with to stop the dreaded drool rash before it starts.
As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
1) Spot The Warning Signs and Prepare
The symptoms from teething usually take time to ramp up, so be on the lookout for when your baby starts putting their fingers into their mouth regularly or pulls on their ears.
When you see these red flags, make sure you get your supplies ready for battle!
2) Triple The Outfit Changes
If you’re a parent, you’re already used to days where your baby runs through half a dozen onesies.
Once drooling kicks into gear, be ready to triple that. Do whatever you have to do to keep wet clothes from staying on for too long.
3) Bibs Aren’t Just For Mealtimes
To help cut down on the outfit changes, you should work bibs into heavy rotation whenever possible.
Just as bibs can prevent food and drinks getting everywhere, they can act as a drool shield.
Use the ones with the waterproof liner for extra protection.
4) Get Sneaky With Towels
Tuck a thin towel underneath the crib sheet to give some extra absorption power to your baby’s bed.
Just be sure that it doesn’t make the bed too soft and fluffed up, or else it could become a suffocation hazard.
A simple hand towel under the sheet in the area where their head lays should do the job nicely.
What To Avoid When Caring For Teething Rash
As part of the Hippocratic Oath which doctors take, first do no harm is good policy for a parent as well.
But sometimes this is not as easy to follow as it sounds. What will cause harm accidentally? Parenting is always full of best intentions, but without the right knowledge it is not enough.
Rashes are by nature a form of irritated skin. That’s how they came to arise in the first place.
So, be careful not to further inflame the problem by overdoing your care.
I hear from parents all the time who start off doing the right things, but then end up taking it too far.
- Cool teethers and clothes are good, so frozen ones are better? Frozen teethers can be too much for the already damaged skin to handle. They could result in cracked skin and bleeding.
- You have to keep drying off the drool, so why not give the rash a good rubbing with a towel? This is only going to make it worse. Rubbing could tear the skin and increase the chances of infection.
- What better way to keep the rash clean then lots of baths? This could dry the skin itself out, causing more aggravation and spreading the rash.
When Is It Time To Visit The Pediatrician?
The right answer to this is always whenever you feel it’s necessary. Trust your gut. A wasted copay is better than waiting out something that should have been treated much earlier.
With that being said, certain situations should not be left up for debate. Here are a few clear signs you need to bring your baby to the doctor:
- If the rash persists for more than a couple of days
- If the rash spreads past where there is regularly drool or wetness
- If things start looking worse (pus forming, open sores, bleeding, or possible signs of infection)
- If your baby develops a sustained fever of 101 degrees
Your doctor will likely repeat many of the same advice found in this article, but if the rash is worsening or infected then a course of antibiotics or medicated ointment might be prescribed.
Note from Dr. Leah Alexander, M.D., F.A.A.P.: “Here is a link from Stanford Children’s Hospital that details skin conditions where a doctor should be consulted.
You’ll Be A Pro In No Time
You have already mastered (okay, got at least tolerably good at) countless baby related activities like the one handed diaper change or how to hide vegetables in their meals. Teething rash is a mild challenge in comparison.
Try to enjoy how cute your greased up little monster looks, and know that no matter how bad it seems, it will all likely be over in a few days at most.