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What is Erythema Toxicum Neonatorum & How is it Treated : Causes, Symptoms, and Prevention of Erythema Toxicum Neonatorum

What is Erythema Toxicum Neonatorum?

Erythema toxicum neonatorum is a condition that affects the skin of newborns. It is characterized by small, yellowish bumps surrounded by inflamed skin. It is also known as newborn rash and affects 30-70 percent of newborn babies.(1)

The rash of erythema toxicum neonatorum appears mainly on the face and midsection of the baby’s body. Still, it may also occur in any other part of the body except on the soles of the feet and palms of the hands.

What is Erythema Toxicum Neonatorum?

Erythema toxicum neonatorum is a harmless condition and typically clears in 2 weeks. According to research, the spots disappear in a few hours after appearing and reappearing on other body parts.(3)

Erythema toxicum neonatorum may affect infants in the first few weeks of birth. It affects 48-72% of full-term newborns.

Causes of Erythema Toxicum Neonatorum?

The exact cause of erythema toxicum neonatorum is not known. According to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology, immature hair follicles and sebaceous glands may be the reason behind its occurrence.(2)

Hair follicles in newborns are more, than in adults and erythema toxicum neonatorum may occur due to a reaction to the bacteria that has entered the hair follicles. This is the reason it does not occur in palms and soles.

The risk factors for erythema toxicum neonatorum include:

  • Being born in a hot and wet climate
  • Vaginal birth
  • Being male(3)

Symptoms of Erythema Toxicum Neonatorum

The symptoms of erythema toxicum neonatorum include:

  • Multiple yellowish-white spots
  • Flea-bitten appearance
  • Spots of measure between 1-3 millimeters
  • Irregular inflamed area of skin that surrounds the spots

The spots may be few or many and may occur in clusters across the body. It does occur on the soles of feet.

Conditions Similar to Erythema Toxicum Neonatorum

There are several other harmless similar conditions that a newborn is likely to suffer from:

Baby Acne

Baby acne or acne neonatorum is a skin condition in which acne-like adults appear on the baby’s cheeks and forehead. These are small pimples that occur due to maternal hormones. These go away without any treatment within a couple of weeks. It is important not to pop or squeeze them to avoid an infection.


Milia are pimple-like hard white cysts that form due to the baby’s oil glands. It is most common in infants and mostly appears on the baby’s nose. They also go away without any treatment within a few weeks.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Erythema Toxicum Neonatorum

Diagnosis of erythema toxicum neonatorum involves taking the complete medical history and doing a physical examination. Sometimes a doctor may take a sample of the inside of the pustules for laboratory testing. However, it may not be necessary.

Erythema toxicum neonatorum does not require any treatment and may resolve on its own within 5-14 days. If a person is concerned about the child suffering from any other health condition, they can speak with a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Erythema toxicum neonatorum is a benign condition that would not cause any long-term diseases or symptoms in the body. It is temporary and harmless and may subside on its own. It rarely recurs and if it does it may be due to any other condition.

Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 12, 2023

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