A teething baby or toddler usually comes with plenty of drool—and potentially a teething rash, too. Though teething rash is more of a nuisance than anything, you’ll want to prevent the rash as much as possible, help it heal and keep your little one comfortable. Here’s what to keep in mind.
When babies and toddlers are teething, they tend to drool a lot. “That drool can have bits of food in it, along with digestive enzymes in the saliva itself, which can be irritating to the skin and cause the rash,” explains Candice Jones, a board-certified paediatrician in Orlando, FL.
Teething rash commonly occurs in babies and toddlers between six and 24 months of age—that’s prime teething time!
Teething rash is typically described as a “red, raised rash with small bumps,” says Jones. “There can also be chapped or chafed skin.” The rash can be kind of smelly because saliva can carry odours. Teething rash is more likely to wax and wane over time rather than be persistent because your little one isn’t constantly drooling and teething.
The most common sites for a teething rash are on the cheeks, mouth, chin and neck—in other words, where drool is most concentrated.
“You may also see teething rash on the upper chest because some babies can be pretty juicy!” says Jones.
Rashes can be caused by a variety of viruses and tend to be associated with fever. They can appear anywhere on the body. Despite what you may have heard, teething does not cause fever, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Teething may be associated with a slight increase in body temperature (under 38C or 100.4F), which isn’t considered a true fever. Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, can cause red, raised patches and appear anywhere on the body, especially in your child’s creases (behind the knees and ears, in the inner elbows and on the hands). Check with your healthcare provider if you’re not exactly sure what is causing the rash.
It’s best to gently and frequently wipe away drool with a soft cloth to remove the irritant, says Jones. Stocking up on soft bibs to catch the drool is also a good idea because you can easily swap one out for a dry one. If your baby’s shirt is wet with drool, make sure to change it as soon as possible. Gently smoothing on petroleum jelly or healing baby ointment (containing petrolatum, such as Aquaphor) creates a barrier to protect skin from drool, explains Jones. She says it’s not harmful if a small amount of the product ends up on your baby’s lips. You can also use lanolin ointment.
For a mild rash, follow the same steps you would for prevention: Gently wipe away drool, swap out wet shirts or bibs and use a barrier ointment. Keep your baby’s skin as clean and dry as possible. “You also want to limit other potentially irritating things on the skin, so use scent-free and dye-free lotions, soaps and detergents,” says Jones. Wash your baby’s skin gently with warm water, a couple of times a day, and pat dry. Try to cut down on pacifier use if you can because drool can get trapped between the soother and skin. If the skin is cracked, bleeding or oozing or your baby rubs their skin because it’s bothering them, visit your healthcare provider, who may suggest an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream in a mild one percent formulation. Don’t use a prescription cream that has been prescribed to another family member.