Erythema toxicum

  • Definition
    • Erythema toxicum is a common skin condition seen in newborns.

  • Alternative Names
    • Erythema toxicum neonatorum; ETN; Toxic erythema of the newborn; Flea-bite dermatitis

  • Causes
    • Erythema toxicum may appear in approximately half of all normal newborn infants. The condition may appear in the first few hours of life, or it can appear after the first day. The condition can last for several days.

      Although erythema toxicum is harmless, it can be of great concern to the new parent. Its cause is unknown.

  • Symptoms
    • The main symptom is a rash of small, yellow-to-white-colored bumps (papules) 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. They can also be seen on the upper arms and thighs.

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

  • Exams and Tests
    • Your baby's health care provider can often make a diagnosis during a routine exam after birth. Testing is usually not needed.

  • Treatment
    • The large red splotches usually disappear without any treatment or changes in skin care.

  • Outlook (Prognosis)
    • The rash usually clears within 2 weeks. It is usually completely gone by age 4 months.

  • When to Contact a Medical Professional
    • Discuss the condition with your baby's provider during a routine examination if you are concerned.

  • References
    • Lucky AW. Transient benign cutaneous lesions in the newborn. In: Eichenfield LF, Frieden IJ, Mathes EF, Zaenglein AL, eds. Neonatal and Infant Dermatology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2015:chap 7.

      Martin KL. Diseases of the neonate. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 647.