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Guide to 5 Common Infant Infections

Every mom naturally frets when her little guy or gal suddenly sports a bumpy red rash or develops a worrisome temperature in the middle of the night. The early years bring on a number of skin woes, fevers, sniffles, and coughs, and there's often not much you can do to avoid them, besides being vigilant about hand washing and good hygiene. Thankfully, they're often short-lived and mild. You'll want to consult your pediatrician, but treatment, for the most part, is pretty simple, as well. "The best care for most of these illnesses is often just supportive -- fever medication, extra fluids, and a little more rocking and snuggling," explains Jennifer Trachtenberg, M.D., New York City author of The Smart Parent's Guide to Getting Your Kids Through Checkups, Illnesses and Accidents.


What it is A yeast infection in and around your baby's mouth. Yeast occurs naturally and is usually harmless, but an overgrowth can cause an infection.

How it's transmitted Kissing, hugging, nursing, and bathing can pass yeast from mom to baby. It can also travel via bottles and pacifiers.

Symptoms Thick white patches that form on the gums, inner cheeks, tongue, and roof of the mouth. Feedings may be painful for your baby.

Treatment Your baby may need oral antifungal medication; an antifungal skin cream can be used on mom's nipples. Wash feeding equipment extra well; if the infection persists, consider tossing bottle nipples and pacifiers.

Yeast Diaper Infection

What it is This rash is also caused by the yeast in your baby's system.

How it's transmitted A wet diaper is a warm, moist place for fungus to grow. It can also travel from the baby's mouth down through the GI tract and then out with the stool.

Symptoms A garden-variety diaper rash will be a bit red and irritated, while a yeast infection is a lot angrier-looking, with shiny red, pustule-like bumps (though they aren't liquid-filled) that cluster in the groin area or skin folds. This rash may be tender to the touch, so expect some squirming on the changing table.

Treatment An antifungal cream, such as nystatin, will clear up a mild yeast infection.

Get more info on common baby rashes in our Rashes Health Guide


What it is Roseola is a very common, one-time mild viral illness that usually crops up in warm-weather months and is caused by a strain of the herpes virus.

How it's transmitted Via saliva, a runny nose, or a cough.

Symptoms A rather high fever (up to 104 degrees F) -- sometimes with a mild runny nose or cough -- lasts several days. Then, once the fever breaks, a red, spotty rash will spread over the chest, arms, face, and neck.

Treatment The only thing you can do is keep your baby comfortable. Ask your pediatrician about an appropriate dose of fever-reducing acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Topical skin lotions or creams aren't necessary.

Coxsackie Virus

What it is A viral illness also known as hand, foot, and mouth disease because the rash that accompanies it shows up in these three places.

How it's transmitted Coxsackie is spread by saliva and feces and is most contagious through saliva during the first week.

Symptoms A coxsackie rash is red, deep, and blisterlike. It can be tender and may cause your tot to balk at feedings. You can also expect a fever and irritability.

Treatment Do all you can to keep your baby hydrated (keep up regular bottle- and breastfeeding sessions) and offer acetaminophen or ibuprofen. The blisters can take a week to heal, and the fever should ease in a few days.

Respiratory Syncytial Virus

What it is RSV is an extremely contagious respiratory infection that can cause bronchiolitis (an inflammation of the small airways in the lungs) or pneumonia.

How it's transmitted Via physical contact or from a sneeze or cough. RSV can also live for several hours on surfaces.

Symptoms A cough, runny nose, fever, lethargy, fussiness, and a decreased appetite. Seek immediate help for persistent coughing, wheezing, and rapid breathing.

Treatment Start with fluids and fever medication. A prescription bronchodilator, such as albuterol, may be necessary. Severe cases require hospitalization for intravenous fluids and oxygen.