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On Call: Baby's Got Orange Skin

Q. My baby's skin has taken on an orange color. Could his diet be to blame?

A. Absolutely, if he's eating carrots, sweet potatoes, or other foods high in beta-carotene (some others are squash, apples, corn, and even certain green vegetables like spinach and asparagus). These fruits and veggies can tint skin orange if eaten in large quantities. And they're often sweet, so many babies do love eating them  -- I know mine did. Breast milk also has high levels of beta-carotene, especially if Mom's been getting lots of produce.

This colorful condition, which is known as carotenemia, is harmless, but you still might want to call your doctor about it, for two reasons:

  • To make sure it isn't jaundice
  • It can be seen in babies (and adults) with not so harmless conditions like diabetes, hypothyroidism, and kidney disease.

It's quite unlikely that your child has one of these problems, but it's worth having your doctor take a look.

If your baby does have carotenemia, cutting back on foods with beta-carotene will make his golden glow fade, but I wouldn't bother  -- these foods are good for him. As he grows and his diet becomes more varied, his skin will return to normal.