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Erythema toxicum

Definition

Erythema toxicum is a common noncancerous skin condition that affects newborns.

Alternative Names

Erythema toxicum neonatorum

Causes

The cause of erythema toxicum is unknown. Doctors think that it is due to a problem with the immune system.

About one half of all newborn full-term infants get the condition. (Full-term means the baby is born at 37 to 40 weeks of pregnancy.) The condition usually appears between 3 days and 2 weeks after birth.

Symptoms

The main symptom is a rash of small, yellow-to-white-colored bumps called papules. The papules are surrounded by red skin. There may be a few or several papules. They are usually on the face and in the middle of the body. But they can also occur on the upper arms and thighs.

The rash can change rapidly, appearing and disappearing in different areas over hours to days.

Exams and Tests

The health care provider can usually make a diagnosis just by examining the baby's skin. Tests are usually not needed. If the diagnosis is unclear, a bump on the skin may be gently scraped and checked under the microscope. This is to make sure that the baby has no other dangerous disease.

Treatment

The rash disappears without any treatment and does not scar the skin.

Outlook (Prognosis)

The rash usually clears within 2 weeks.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Discuss the condition with your child's health care provider if you are concerned.

References

Morelli JG. Diseases of the neonate. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 639.

Wright DR, Cohen BA. Common newborn dermatoses. In: Gleason CA, Devaskar SU, eds. Avery's Diseases of the Newborn. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 100.


Review Date: 8/9/2013
Reviewed By: Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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