Babies typically start drooling between three and six months as they become more “oral-centric.”
While as parents, we typically associate drooling with teething, that’s not the case! Drool typically comes long before your baby’s teeth.
This saliva is important for eating solid foods, swallowing, and digestion (and eventually, protecting their teeth), but excess saliva can also lead to unwanted side effects if allowed to get out of hand.
Take drool rash, for example.
What Is Drool Rash?
Drool rash is a chapped, dry, and red rash that’s caused by excessive drooling. It typically appears on the mouth, chin, cheeks, or neck of your baby where drool is present.
Saliva won’t normally cause a rash if left on the skin for brief periods of time and then wiped away. Drool rashes tend to appear when the skin is left wet for long periods of time. This extended exposure to wet saliva makes the skin irritated.
What Does Drool Rash Look Like?
Drool rash appears as red, dry, and inflamed skin. It can also cause small, red bumps to appear.
Sound familiar? Drool rashes can look a lot like eczema and cause confusion for concerned parents. Let’s break down the difference.
Drool Rash vs. Eczema
Drool rash (or any rash) and eczema can be difficult to differentiate. That’s partly because eczema shows up in several different forms. Two types of eczema you may confuse drool rash with are contact dermatitis and atopic dermatitis.
Drool Rash vs. Atopic Dermatitis
Atopic dermatitis is the most well-known and recognized form of eczema. Doctors and researchers don’t know the exact cause of atopic dermatitis, but it’s thought to be a combination of factors affecting the immune system and skin microbiome — like genetics and environment.
Atopic dermatitis appears as a red, dry, itchy rash just like a drool rash can; however, unlike drool rash, it’s often located on the cheeks, forehead, or scalp and in the creases of the elbows and knees… but it can appear anywhere.
Drool Rash vs. Contact Dermatitis
Contact dermatitis is a form of eczema caused by irritation from an external factor — like poison ivy, nickel, chemicals in household products, etc.
For that reason, drool rash is actually a type of contact dermatitis. In the case of drool rash, saliva is the external factor!
Not all forms of contact dermatitis show up on the skin alike. Depending on the irritant, some people may experience blistering with contact dermatitis. However, babies experiencing drool rash shouldn’t have blisters.
Causes of Drool Rash
Drool rash is always caused by saliva sitting on a baby’s skin for too long. However, this can happen for a few different reasons, including:
Babies drool long before their teeth start coming in, but we can’t deny that saliva does increase during the teething stage.
When your baby’s teeth start breaking through the gums, your baby may also put their fingers or fist in their mouth and suck on toys, which can smear drool over their face, neck, and chest.
If you’re not sure whether your baby is about to get their first tooth or not, other signs of teething include swollen gums and fussiness.
Pacifiers are a great and effective way to calm your baby. When your baby is heavily drooling, though, it’s important not to keep your baby’s pacifier in their mouth for extended periods of time. If they sleep with a pacifier, wipe their mouth when they wake up.
Otherwise, check beneath their pacifier throughout the day and wipe away any excess drool around the mouth area. Pacifiers can hold saliva against the mouth and surrounding skin longer than it should stay there.
Babies are messy eaters. Often, they end up with food left all over their faces. When that food dries and sits too long on the skin, it can also contribute to drool rash.
While it can seem harmless to leave that food around the mouth, be sure to gently wipe your baby’s mouth after feeding to help prevent a rash from forming.
Drool Rash Prevention
Understanding what causes drool rash can help you better prevent it…
- Gently blot any saliva from your baby’s mouth and cheeks as soon as you see it.
- Use a bib to help protect your baby’s chest (wet clothes can cause drool rash on the body).
- Gently blot your baby’s face and neck after feedings and naps to get rid of drool.
- Don’t let food sit on their face after meals.
- Give your baby a teething ring or cold washcloth if excess drool is caused by teething.
- Use mild and fragrance-free detergents, soaps, and lotions… Harsh, scented products can worsen your baby’s rash.
Drool Rash Treatment
Most of the time drool rash will go away without any intervention from a doctor within a week of it first appearing. However, to help this healing process it’s important to implement good hygiene practices and choose the best skincare products for your baby.
Wash the Skin Daily
Gently wash your baby’s mouth and neck with warm water after feedings and nap time. Be sure to use a clean cloth and look at the folds in your baby’s neck for any saliva that may have fallen from their mouth.
Most importantly, don’t leave the area wet! Pat the skin dry with a soft blotting motion.
Use Petroleum Jelly
After your baby’s skin is dry, apply petroleum jelly to their rash. Petroleum jelly is made of a combination of mineral oils and waxes and can help heal minor skin irritations while moisturizing the skin.
However, make sure the skin is cleaned and dry before applying petroleum jelly so you don’t trap in any bacteria that can negatively impact the skin.
Use Fragrance-Free Products
Using gentle, fragrance-free products on your baby is always wise. Babies have incredibly sensitive and absorbent skin that can easily become irritated by harsh chemicals.
When your baby is already experiencing skin irritation, the reaction to fragrances and other aggressive skincare ingredients only becomes amplified.
See a Doctor
Most drool rashes will heal with at-home treatment. However, if you’ve been managing your baby’s drool rash for a week or more — or if the skin around your baby’s mouth or neck is cracked and painful, see a doctor to determine if a more aggressive treatment plan is needed. They may be prescribed a medicated cream, such as a hydrocortisone cream.
Babies drool! That’s a fact of life. If your baby ends up developing a drool rash, don’t worry. This is more common than you may think.
Chances are by blotting your baby’s saliva and avoiding additional irritation to the rash, your baby’s skin will heal within the week.