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General tips to prevent rash and other skin conditions

A newborn baby needs special care and handling. To protect your baby’s skin from rash and other skin conditions, dress your baby in light clothing and avoid thick swaddling, especially in the hot Singapore weather. Use mild cleansers or soap substitutes without added fragrances or dyes. Strong soaps, especially antiseptic soaps and bubble baths are not recommended for babies.

The ideal water temperature for bathing a newborn baby is 36-38 degrees Celsius. This is because hot water can rob a baby’s skin of its natural protective oils. Bath time should be limited to 5-10 minutes.

“A light moisturiser cream applied after a bath can protect your baby’s skin and help in the maturation of the skin barrier,” says Dr Mark Koh Jean Aan, Head and Consultant, Paediatric Dermatology Service, KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH), a member of the SingHealth group.

If your baby has a rash or any other skin condition, you can take several steps at home to treat the problem and make your baby feel more comfortable. Mild skin conditions such as heat rash and nappy rash typically clear up on their own over time, with proper care. For severe cases, topical steroid creams and medication may be required.

Treatment for heat rash

  • Dress the baby in light clothing
  • Give baby cool baths
  • Avoid swaddling
  • Keep the room cool with air-conditioning and fans
  • Avoid thick moisturisers
  • Use a mild topical steroid e.g. hydrocortisone 1 per cent, desonide lotion, to decrease the inflammation

Treatment for nappy rash

  • Change your baby’s diaper frequently
  • Use plain water to clean the skin area covered by the diaper, and apply a barrier cream or moisturiser
  • In severe cases, medicated creams or oral medications may be prescribed

Treatment for cradle cap

  • Shampoo your baby daily using a no-tears shampoo or a medicated shampoo
  • Apply olive oil on the baby’s scalp, an hour before bath time. This will help to loosen the scales
  • In severe cases, a mild topical steroid cream can be applied on the affected areas

Treatment for atopic eczema

  • Bathe baby daily with cool or slightly warm water and a mild soap or soap substitute
  • Pat your baby dry after a bath – don’t rub the skin
  • Apply a moisturiser every day to prevent and control eczema flare-ups
  • In case there's a flare-up, apply topical steroids or topical calcineurin inhibitors (e.g. Elidel)
  • In severe cases where there is an infection, antibiotics may be prescribed

“There is no cure for eczema but it can be well controlled by minimising triggers, frequent daily use of moisturisers and intermittent use of topical steroids or calcineurin inhibitors,” says Dr Koh.

Skin of premature babies: did you know?

Function-wise, the skin of full-term newborns is almost similar to that of older children and adults. In contrast, the skin of premature babies (preemies) has decreased barrier functions, but only for the first two or three weeks after birth.

Ref: S13