Baby drool rash and atopic eczema look very similar. Learn how to tell the difference between baby drool rash and atopic eczema, so baby can receive the care they need.
Baby drool rash and atopic dermatitis (the most common type of eczema) look very similar. In fact, they’re more closely related than many people realize.
But while drool rash goes away after the proper treatment (and won’t be a problem as your little one grows out of drooling), atopic eczema is chronic and most often lifelong.
How can you tell the difference between drool rash and eczema, so your baby gets the care they need? Here’s what parents need to know.
What is baby drool rash?
Baby drool rash happens when the skin around, near, or under baby’s mouth becomes irritated by their own saliva. When too much saliva dribbles onto these skin areas too often, and stays on these areas for too long, it irritates baby’s skin. This causes baby to develop a rash of raised, itchy bumps around the mouth, chin, cheek, neck, and/or chest areas.
On light skin, the rash will appear red, and on darker skin, it may appear purplish-red, gray, dark brown, or slightly darker than the person’s skin.
Drool rash isn’t contagious or serious, but it can be very irritating for baby.
Why do babies develop drool rash?
Drool rash is most common in babies between 3 to 6 months of age — about the same time they enter the teething stage. But it could develop anytime after baby hits the 2 month old — the earliest that their salivary glands could start producing — and anytime before baby reaches two.
Since baby doesn’t have full control over the muscles that help them swallow food and saliva, the drool dribbles down their mouth instead, only until about 18 months-2 years of age these muscles can start to control better.
Drooling is just normal — once it starts, that’s a sign that baby is developing food-related fine motor skills like chewing. And when baby starts eating solid foods, they’ll drool even more as their body produces the saliva needed for digestion. Too much drooling that isn’t cleaned off of baby’s face, though, could lead to drool rash.
What is atopic eczema (atopic dermatitis)?
Atopic eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is a chronic skin condition that is usually lifelong. It causes someone’s skin to develop itchy and dry patches. Sometimes, these patches are rough and itchy, and other times, these patches are crusty and bumpy areas that may leak fluid.
On people with lighter skin, these patches are almost always red. On people with darker skin, the patches may appear darker brown, purplish-red, gray, or slightly darker than the person’s normal skin color.
Eczema can appear anywhere on the body. But most commonly, it affects the elbows, knees, arm joints, leg joints, other skin creases, cheeks, forehead, and scalp.
Why do babies develop atopic eczema?
While we don’t yet know exactly what causes atopic eczema as there are so many reasons behind, we do know that it’s a condition related to inherited disease or food allergies.
We also know that atopic eczema flares up, or gets worse, when someone’s skin is exposed to certain triggers. The triggers that cause flare-ups are different for every person with atopic eczema. But they can include irritants like dyes, fragrances, detergents, soaps, certain fabrics, chemicals, and metals. Other atopic eczema triggers include food allergens or environmental allergens, dry skin, dry air, heat, and existing skin infections.
Drool rash vs. baby eczema: How are they related?
Many people don’t realize that drool rash is actually a type of eczema (or dermatitis). Eczema and Dermatitis are catch-all terms for several different types of skin conditions. All types of eczema cause inflammation and irritation of the skin.
One type of eczema is called atopic dermatitis — which is known as the most common type of eczema.
Another type of eczema is contact dermatitis. Contact dermatitis flares up and causes a rash when someone’s skin comes in direct contact with an irritant. Drool rash is a type of contact dermatitis — in this case, baby’s own saliva is the irritant that causes the rash.
Both contact dermatitis (including drool rash) and atopic dermatitis can flare up when someone’s skin is exposed to certain irritants. But atopic dermatitis can sometimes be triggered by allergens, heat, dryness, and infections as well.
Drool rash vs. atopic eczema: How to tell the difference?
How to tell the difference between atopic dermatitis and drool rash? The main difference is where do the rashes appears. Drool rash usually only appears around the mouth, chin, and neck, and may also appear on the chest if the drool gets that far. But it won’t appear any lower on the body, or above the nose.
Meanwhile, atopic eczema often appears on the elbows, knees, arm joints, leg joints, forehead and scalp. Drool rash won’t appear in these places, because they’re too far from the drool to affect.
How to manage drool rash?
The best way to keep drool rash from developing — or getting worse — is to clean the drool off of baby’s skin regularly. Keep a cloth made with pure cotton nearby to gently wipe off drool, especially after feeding baby. Have baby wear a bib to catch drool to prevent going to their chest, and change their clothes if drool makes their clothing becomes too wet.
If baby develops a drool rash, keep the area dry and clean will help relieve it.
Clean off their affected areas immediately by a wet cloth with warm water and gently washing the area. Make sure you don’t rub the area, as rubbing will irritate the skin more. So, gently pat the area dry (Remember! don’t rub it!). Make sure that the area keeps clean and dry.
Also, apply Grahams Natural Baby Eczema Cream to the affected areas, this is a natural and safe product for babies, steroid-free and helps to moisturize, relieve itch, anti-inflammatory & anti-bacteria, to help create a barrier that protects the skin from saliva.
When you bathe your baby, stay away from soaps & SLS. Use a mild, unscented baby cleanser instead. You can choose Grahams Natural Baby Derma Wash, a natural and mind cleanser especially designated for babies, without scent and Paraben, made with 7 Natural Plant extracts to protect babies’ dedicated skin.
Avoid using other harsh, irritating substances on baby’s skin and clothes, as irritants could worsen the rash if they come in contact with it. Use laundry detergents that don’t contain fragrances or dyes, stay away from soaps and scented lotions.
Should you visit the doctor for baby’s drool rash?
With natural home treatments like the ones we described above, drool rash will usually go away in about a week or two. But if baby’s drool rash looks blistery, oozy, or crusty, this may be a sign of infection. If the rash doesn’t improve after several days of treatment, seems excessively itchy, or baby seems to be in pain because of the rash, then the situation may not be drool rash instead, it may be a problem of atomic dermatitis. We welcome you to email us your baby’s skin situation with photo description, our team will suggest accordingly with our experience, or you can visit the dermatologist to have a deep understanding for the situation.
How to manage atopic eczema?
Keep baby’s skin moisturizing regularly are key to treating atopic eczema. This is because babies with this eczema are prone to skin dryness — moisture easily escapes their compromised skin barrier.
Bathe baby in lukewarm water daily (Suggest to be around 37 Degree Celsius). Use a fragrance-free, soap-free & SLS-free cleanser, and gently wash their skin and pat baby dry. Follow up the bath by moisturizing baby’s skin immediately with Grahams Natural Baby Eczema Body & Bath Oil when the moisture still at the skin, to seal the moisture into baby’s skin & protect their dedicated skin. Then, apply Grahams Natural Baby Eczema Cream at the affected areas.
To understand more about different types of baby eczema, please visit The multiple types of baby eczema