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Newborn Health Conditions

Erythema Toxicum

Erythema toxicum is a common harmless rash that appears in at least half of all infants who are carried to term.

The condition is also sometimes called erythema toxicum neonatorum (ETN) or toxic erythema of the newborn. The rash usually appears within 1 to 2 days after birth, and often goes away on its own within about a week.

No one knows the cause of ETN — no bacteria or viruses are found in the rash area. Even the pus-like fluid that is sometimes found in the rash contains only harmless blood cells. It is not contagious, does not require any medical treatment, and goes away on its own.

Erythema toxicum is a rash that consists of tiny bumps that are firm, yellowish or white, and surrounded by a ring of redness. Sometimes these bumps are filled with a fluid that looks like (but isn’t) pus. Sometimes there are no bumps at all — only a splotchy redness.

The rash usually appears on the baby’s face, chest, arms, and legs. It may be concentrated on only one area of the body or it may cover much of the child’s skin, although it usually does not affect the palms or soles of the feet.

ETN is not associated with any other health problems, and a child with the rash feels completely well. Again, because it is harmless, ETN doesn’t require medical treatment. Follow your doctor’s guidelines for your baby’s normal skin care.

Reviewed by: Jennifer A. Tioseco, MD
Date reviewed: August 2012