What is that weird rash on your baby’s chin? Are you wondering how it got there?
It might be a common problem for babies — a teething rash.
What is a teething rash? Is it a sign of another illness, and is there anything you can do about it? To help you and your baby through these tough times, we gathered everything you need to know about teething rash.
Let’s look at the causes, as well as tricks to make this rash vanish.
What Is Teething Rash?
Teething rash is a skin rash characterized by red patches of skin and small, raised bumps. Your baby’s skin will likely look chapped and dry. The appearance of teething rash is often compared to eczema.
It is important to look for other symptoms of teething alongside the developing rash. Properly identifying the source of a rash allows you to treat it quickly and correctly.
Here are a few common signs of teething to watch out for:
- A visible, erupting tooth from your baby’s gum line.
- Sensitive gums.
- Ear tugging — the nerves in the gums may give your baby an odd sensation in the ears.
- Excessive biting or sucking on food and objects.
Teething rash most often appears around a baby’s lips, chin, and cheeks. However, don’t be surprised if you also find evidence of teething rash on your baby’s chest, hands, and feet.
What Causes Teething Rash?
The main culprit behind those sensitive red bumps on your baby’s skin may surprise you. It’s drool!
Saliva contains multiple enzymes to aid in digestion (1). As we eat, these enzymes begin to break down the food, so our bodies have an easier time digesting it. As your baby grows during the first year, the salivary glands begin to develop.
Because your baby doesn’t have the full capability and know-how to swallow all of the saliva produced, it most often flows out of the mouth as drool.
When your baby starts teething, these growing glands are kicked into overdrive. As the teeth erupt from the gum line, your baby’s biological reflex to salivate is stimulated (2).
The enzymes which help your baby digest solid foods then come into contact with the skin, causing irritation and, you guessed it, a rash.
Teething Rash on the Body?
But wait! If teething rash is caused by drool, why does the rash appear on other areas of the body? Well, there are two leading causes:
- First, as you have likely discovered, your baby can make all sorts of messes you never imagined. Their hands and feet can easily be placed in their mouths, where an abundance of drool is present. Drool can also dribble down into the folds of your baby’s neck and onto the chest.
- Second, your baby will typically react to the irritation of teething rash by scratching and rubbing their skin. Not only does this aggravate the rash, but it transfers saliva to other parts of the body.
If a rash appears on the body and your baby is not showing significant signs of teething, it may not be teething rash at all. If you are unable to determine what is causing the rash, contact your baby’s doctor.
Sometimes a red, bumpy rash can develop in the folds of your baby’s neck. Yeast likes to grow in those wet, warm, and irritated areas. You will know because it will become more red and worsen specifically in the neck crease. If you see this or are concerned about yeast infection, contact your baby’s doctor.
Editor's Note:Dr. Gina Jansheski, MD, FAAP
How Can I Prevent Teething Rash?
Are you hoping to prevent teething rash entirely? A little bit of knowledge is all you need.
Here are a few helpful tips to avoid adding this extra bit of stress on you and your baby during the teething process:
1. Keep the Drool at Bay
If you want to prevent teething rash, do all you can to keep your baby’s skin free of drool. Keep a soft cloth handy and dab the drool away often. Avoid rubbing and wiping because these harsh motions can aggravate the skin further.
If your baby seems to drool excessively, have them wear a bib to protect their neck and chest. There are special bibs made for drool control. Some feature silicone and pockets to catch liquid while others are soft and super absorbent.
Pacifiers can increase your baby’s need to drool. When they suck on a pacifier, they are using their mouth muscles more heavily, stimulating the need to drool. Pacifiers can also hinder your baby’s ability to learn to swallow at a consistent rate (3).
Pacifiers trap drool between the pacifier and the skin, creating more irritation and causing the rash to worsen around the mouth.
2. Take Care of Your Baby’s Skin
Teething rash is exacerbated by overly dry skin, which can occur when you are constantly wiping your baby’s mouth. Dab gently and make sure to keep your baby’s skin clean and lightly moisturized. Use a baby-safe lotion, ointment, or soothing oil. Apply only after drying the area. You will need to reapply the product frequently throughout the day, as it will be washed off with drool and repeated dabbing.
You should use just enough to provide a thin layer of protection and prevent chapping. It’s also important to pick other products, such as body wash and shampoo, specifically formulated for your baby’s sensitive skin.
3. Change Your Baby’s Clothes Often
If your baby is drooling enough that it’s soaking through their clothes, make sure to change them often. The drool on clothing plus the friction of the fabric against the skin can result in irritation leading to teething rash on your baby’s chest and tummy.
You will also want to make sure you are using a clothes detergent that is safe for your baby’s skin. Detergents with heavy fragrance can be especially irritating.
Launder any clothing or bedding items that may be drooled on regularly. This includes any sheets or blankets. And don’t forget to wash the bibs after every use!
How To Treat Teething Rash
If your baby already has teething rash, don’t fear. Teething rash can be easily treated and is not considered an indicator of any illness other than teething.
Follow these five simple steps to treat teething rash as soon as it appears.
1. Dismiss the Drool
Just as it is important to remove drool to prevent teething rash, once the rash has developed, keeping the area free of drool is a significant part of treatment.
Because your baby’s skin is already inflamed, be extra gentle in dabbing the drool away. If the weather permits, keep your baby in limited clothing to avoid friction. Or, pick clothes made of soft, smooth fabrics.
It is a good idea to protect any raw areas by using a “barrier cream” such as petroleum jelly to repel moisture. Just make sure to dry the area gently before applying a thin layer to seal the moisture out.
Editor's Note:Dr. Gina Jansheski, MD, FAAP
2. Protect the Hands
To keep your baby from scratching and rubbing their rash, have them wear mittens or clothing that covers their hands (but not all day, babies need to learn to explore the world with their hands). Also, make sure their nails are cut short.
If your baby is having a hard time keeping their hands away, try distracting them with sensory toys appropriate for their age. Toys that glow, make noise, or squish are especially fun.
3. Soothe and Moisturize
Prevent the rash from growing worse by carefully washing your baby with a gentle cleanser and applying a light moisturizer. All should be specifically formulated for babies and be free of scents and perfumes.
Another option is to apply a small layer of petroleum jelly to your baby’s skin. It helps create a barrier between the rash and the drool.
4. Cold and Chewy
Give your baby something cold and chewy to gnaw on. Not only will it make their gums feel better, but the cold will help take away the painful sting that comes with teething rash.
The most common items are chilled pacifiers, teething rings, or washcloths. Cold fruit, nearly frozen applesauce, and popsicles are also great choices. Make sure to monitor your little one to ensure an item is not too cold. This will also make them drool more, so try to keep a good balance and limit the time these items are used.
5. Baby Gum Massage
Give your baby a gum massage to relieve the pain of teething. Gently stimulating the gums increases necessary blood flow, which will help in the healing process.
Watch the following video to learn how to massage your baby’s gums properly.
How Long Will Teething Rash Last?
With quick and continuous treatment, teething rash should clear up within a few days to a few weeks. However, every case is different, and it is important to monitor your baby’s symptoms and progress. We suggest taking pictures of the rash on your phone to help track any changes and improvements.
If the rash does not visibly begin to improve over the course of a week with regular treatment, consider talking to your pediatrician about other measures you can take.
How Long Does Teething Itself Last?
You have just gotten through a nasty round of teething rash. Now, your baby has a bright little tooth, and all seems well. However, before you know it, the process starts all over again.
There is no exact timeline for teething. It is important to remember teething refers specifically to the process of a tooth erupting from the gums and does not include the growth of the tooth after it has erupted.
Over two years, your baby will grow 20 baby teeth (4). Many teeth can erupt at once. Even though your child’s teeth will still be growing as they enter their toddler years, they will have learned to control the drooling reflex, and teething rash should be a thing of the past.
Teething Rash Treatment Products
When treating teething rash, it is helpful to use the right supplies. We’ve gathered a list of things you may want to keep in your arsenal if your baby shows signs of teething or if they experience repeated bouts of teething rash.
Teething generally begins when your baby is around 4 to 6 months old (5). You can prepare by purchasing any necessary teething and teething rash supplies before your baby cuts their first tooth.
When Teething Rash Leads to Infection
In rare cases, teething rashes can become infected. You can tell a rash is infected if it becomes severely red, weepy, and painful, or if you detect other fluids, such as pus or blood.
If you suspect an area of teething rash is infected, contact your doctor right away. They may wish to see your baby or will be able to suggest any medications needed and further steps to heal your baby’s skin.
Have You Experienced Teething Rash?
When treated promptly, teething rash does not have to be upsetting for you and your baby. All you need is a bit of information and some basic supplies.
Have you experienced teething rash in your home? We would love to hear what helped you and your baby in the comments below.