Babies are known for their soft, smooth skin. But they’re also known for drooling, and excessive drooling on their skin can cause a common condition known as drool rash. These flat or slightly raised patches may have small red bumps or look chapped and dry, and usually affect the mouth, chin, cheeks and neck.
Drool rash happens when your baby’s skin is wet with saliva for long periods of time and becomes irritated. The rash often happens when a baby is teething; because they often have their hands or a teething ring in their mouth, saliva easily drips out of their mouth onto their face.
While drooling can be one of the signs of teething, a baby’s salivary glands develop when they’re around two to three months old, so they frequently drool even when they’re not getting new teeth. Pacifiers also can keep the skin around a baby’s mouth wet and lead to drool rash.
You can treat most cases of drool rash at home. Wash the affected areas gently with warm water twice a day, then pat your baby’s skin dry with a soft cloth.
“Avoid rubbing or using a rough or abrasive towel, which can further aggravate the condition,” says Livpreet Singh, DO, a pediatrician at Scripps Coastal Medical Center Eastlake. “Also avoid washing the area too frequently or using any kind of medicated soap on the rash. Warm water is usually all you need.”
Make sure your baby’s skin is completely dry, then apply a healing ointment, such as Aquaphor. This will help soothe the irritation and act as a barrier between the baby’s drool and their skin, so the rash has a chance to heal.
Avoid using products that might be irritating to your baby’s sensitive skin. Be sure to use only mild, fragrance-free baby washes at bath time; if you use baby lotion on their skin, choose one that is unscented. Don’t apply lotion or anything other than a healing ointment to the drool rash and keep it as dry as possible.
Be aware of other products in your home that may affect your baby’s skin. Wash your baby’s clothes, burp cloths, bibs, sheets and towels in mild, unscented laundry detergent; you may want to use it to wash your own clothes, too. Perfume, essential oils or scented body products may aggravate a rash if the baby’s skin comes into contact with yours.
Drooling is a natural behavior for babies, and preventing it can be a challenge. “But there are a few things you can do to help keep your baby’s skin clean and dry to minimize drool rash,” Dr. Singh says.
Try these tips:
Keep a soft burp cloth handy to wipe away drool from your baby’s mouth and chin, especially after feedings and naps. Also check the folds of the neck and the chest for saliva that may have dripped from your baby’s face. Always use a cloth that is clean and dry and use gentle blotting motions to remove saliva.
Some babies drool so much that their clothing becomes damp, which can lead to drool rash on the body as well as make your baby uncomfortable. Try using a bib to keep saliva away from your baby’s shirt and skin. If the bib becomes damp, replace it with a clean, dry one.
Pacifiers can encourage drool rash if saliva is trapped against your baby’s skin. Use a soft, dry cloth to wipe away saliva and take breaks from pacifier use to let the skin air out.
Don’t let smeared food remain on your baby’s face after meals, as this too can lead to a rash. Clean your baby’s mouth and face after eating to remove any traces of wet food.
According to Dr. Singh, if your baby’s drool rash hasn’t improved after a week or so of home treatment, or if the rash is cracked or painful, it’s time to call your pediatrician. They may suggest an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream or prescribe a cream to help heal the rash and keep your baby’s skin clear.