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Erythema toxicum neonatorum (ETN), also known as newborn rash, is a common skin rash that affects many newborns. It affects anywhere from 30 to 70 percent of newborn babies. The rash generally appears on the face or midsection of a baby’s body, but it may also appear on their arms or thighs. It’s characterized by yellow-to-white bumps surrounded by red skin and looks similar to a cluster of fleabites.
ETN usually occurs within three to 14 days of birth, although it may appear within a few hours after birth. ETN isn’t a cause for alarm. The condition goes away without treatment and isn’t dangerous.
ETN causes a red rash, in which tiny white or yellowish papules, or bumps, are visible. The papules are noncancerous, or benign. Your baby may have many papules on their skin or just a few. They’re firm to the touch, and they may secrete a fluid that resembles pus.
If your baby has ETN, it will probably appear on the midsection of their body or their face. It can also appear on their upper arms and legs. ETN symptoms may move around on their body. For example, it may appear on their face one day and their thighs the next day. It may also go away from a body part and come back. The condition doesn’t cause your baby to feel any discomfort.
ETN is similar to several other harmless newborn skin conditions.
Baby acne, or acne neonatorum, is common. Like adult acne, it generally appears on your baby’s cheeks and forehead. The small red pimples are thought to be caused by maternal hormones. They generally go away without treatment within a couple of months. Don’t attempt to pop or squeeze the pimples. Doing so may cause an infection.
Milia are pimple-like, hard white cysts that can form from your baby’s oil glands. They’re common in most infants and typically appear on a newborn baby’s nose, chin, or forehead. They generally go away without treatment within a few weeks and don’t leave scars. If skin irritation from a blanket or clothing occurs along with milia, the condition may resemble ETN.
Epstein pearls is the name given to milia that appear on your baby’s gums or in their mouth. They’re common and typically disappear within one to two weeks. They may resemble new teeth if they appear on your baby’s gums.
Adults can also develop milia. A doctor may remove milia that occur in adults for cosmetic reasons.
The cause of ETN is currently unknown. Newborns often experience many harmless and temporary changes in their appearance.
Your baby’s doctor can usually diagnose ETN just by examining your baby during a routine checkup.
ETN doesn’t require treatment. No changes in your baby’s skin care routine are necessary.
Many harmless skin conditions can affect your newborn baby, including ETN. It’s a common and harmless skin rash, which your baby’s doctor can diagnose during a simple examination. The condition typically goes away in two to four months without causing any complications.
Written by: Natalie Phillips
Medically reviewed on: Mar 17, 2016: Janine Kelbach, RNC-OB
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