An infant’s skin is extremely sensitive and the sensitivity of the skin gives rise to the development of a variety of skin disorders, such as rashes. The question is are rashes cause for concern or is a rash simply a reaction to the environment?
Rashes – what you need to know!
Moms who notice a red or pink rash which covers much of the infant’s body and is particularly concentrated on the limbs and tummy can conduct a simple at home test to determine the type of rash. By using a regular drinking glass, the glass can be gently pressed onto the rash or the affected area of the skin. If the rash can still be seen through the drinking glass (when applying pressure), the rash may be a petechial or purpuric rash. If the rash cannot be seen through the glass when pressure is applied (and vanishes), this is usually an erythematous rash which is common and not serious. However, a petechial rash is cause for concern and if this type of rash is suspected, parents are urged to seek medical advice, as the rash may be an indication that the baby has developed a serious meningococcal infection.
The petechial rash
Other terms used to describe the petechial rash, include the purpuric rash or the petechiae rash and the rash is seen as a concentration of smallish red or purple spots on the skin. The reddish or purple spots vary in size, with the average spot being no bigger than 2 millimetres in diameter. The best way to determine if the rash is indeed a petechial rash is to use the glass pressure method or to depress the rash and watch if the spots vanish when pressure is applied.
There are many reasons for the petechial rash to develop and these include, a minor trauma to the skin (almost like bruising), where haemorrhaging occurs beneath the skin’s surface. A petechial rash may also develop as a result of a severe coughing fit, or a bout of violent vomiting. Babies who cry uncontrollably for a long period of time have also been known to develop this type of rash, in these cases, the rash commonly appears on the facial area, or the upper chest area. Constrictive clothing or a viral infection has also been linked to the development of the petechial rash. When a definite cause for the rash can be determined, such as a viral infection, or a skin trauma, the petechial rash is harmless and will fade and vanish within a few days.
However, the petechial rash may also be a sign of more sinister health conditions, which include, a low platelet count or a petechial rash can develop if the child is suffering from leukaemia. To this end, if a petechial rash is suspected, parents are urged to immediately contact their child’s paediatrician or family doctor, who will conduct the necessary medical tests to determine the cause of the rash. Several meningococcal infections can also result in the petechial rash. Meningococcal infections are bloodstream infections and if untreated, the condition can become fatal.
Erythematous skin rashes (less serious)
The erythematous skin rashes are far less serious than the petechial rash and these rashes include:
- A viral skin rash
- Nappy rash
- A common heat rash
- Seborrhoea dermatitis, including cradle cap
- Hand foot and mouth disease, starts off with red spots which eventually blister
- Erythema toxicum – a rash which is commonly seen on newborn babies
- Measles – an infectious childhood disease which is becoming less common since children are immunized against the disease.
Hand foot and mouth disease
Hand foot and mouth disease sounds serious and fatal; but in reality, this disease is relatively common in toddlers. The telltale signs of this strange sounding disease are red small spots which develop on the hand’s palms and on the soles of the feet. In some cases, a rash may develop on the child’s bottom. Eventually the rash will blister, but unlike chicken pox the rash is not itchy and some kids may complain of slight pain in their feet. The disease lasts for a period of seven to ten days and is generally harmless and can be treated with over the counter paediatric pain relives, such as Baby Panado, etc. Hand Foot and Mouth Disease or HMFD is typically caused by the Coxsackie virus however, other viruses, like enterovirus, can be the cause of this disease.
Erythema Toxicum is a relatively common skin rash which occurs in babies, two to three days after birth. White spots occur across the baby’s body, but not on the palms and soles and feel raised to the touch. The white spots have the same appearance as pimples and as such, the rash is frequently referred to as neonatal acne because of its appearance. Within a few days the rash will disappear but may reappear a few days later.
There is no cause for concern and there is no treatment for this rash.
Mongolian Blue Spots
This is yet another type of non-serious rash and the rash is made up of a blue spots which resemble bruises. The rash occurs on the base of the baby’s spine or the bruise-like rash is concentrated on the infant’s bottom area. This type of rash is particularly common in African babies or babies with Asian ethnicity. Even though the rash looks painful and may cause alarm for the parents, the rash is painless and the bruises will eventually fade away. There is no treatment and like other typical baby rashes, the blue spots may reappear within the first few weeks of life.
The Miliaria rash is red and is often accompanied by small blisters. The rash is concentrated on the face of the infant or can be seen underneath the clothes. Usually the rash appears soon after birth and as with other common infant rashes; the rash will fade with time and is no cause for distress. If the rash appears more concentrated under the clothes, cooler clothing can be used; this may help alleviate the rash. However, the rash causes no discomfort to the baby, whatsoever.