6 common baby ailments & how to treat them

It’s so hard when your little one isn’t well or uncomfortable, but knowing what to expect can help you to determine whether your baby may require medical attention or not. These are some of the common conditions that may occur within the first eight months of your infant’s life.

1. Nasal congestion

To breathe, babies must get rid of the mucus clogging their nasal passages. Your baby can’t blow their nose so they rely on you to provide the appropriate help.

Signs and symptoms

  • Allergies, sinusitis and the common cold can cause a runny or blocked nose. In fact, babies are likely to get between four and 10 colds in their first year.
  • Mucus in the nose
  • Runny nose
  • Breathing is loud; snuffling sound


  • Use a vapouriser to moisturise the air.
  • A few drops of saline solution will loosen mucus.
  • Run a steamy shower while you hold your baby in the bathroom.
  • Increase your baby’s fluid intake by offering more feeds.

When to call a doctor

  • Your baby develops a cough or fever
  • Your baby starts pulling or tugging at their ear

2. Nappy rash

Cream application to baby bum with nappy rash
Nappy rash

Nappy or diaper rash is an infection of the skin occurring in the nappy area.

Signs and symptoms

Nappy rash is easily identifiable by:

  • Redness of the skin in the nappy area
  • Spots or blotches on the skin
  • Itching of the skin
  • Scaling in the skin folds
  • Discomfort in passing urine or stool
  • Discomfort with sitting or walking


Prevention is better than cure, so try to always apply a barrier cream to the nappy area. If your baby has a nappy rash:

  • Keep the infected area clean and dry.
  • Keep the nappy off and expose the infected skin area to warm dry air.
  • Use zinc ointments to aid healing.

When to call a doctor

If the nappy rash does not clear within three days and your baby is in discomfort, consult your paediatrician. Some rashes are caused by fungal infections or bacteria and will need specific treatment to heal.

3. Teething pain

Baby suffering with teething pains
Teething pain

Teeth erupt through the gums and can cause your baby pain, usually from about six to seven months of age.

Signs and symptoms

  • Your baby may start to chew on a fist or toys.
  • They may have a fever and flushed cheeks.
  • There will be excessive dribble.
  • They may have a runny nose or loose stools.


  • Infant paracetamol will help.
  • Something hard to chew on, such as a biscuit or cold carrots, can help.

When to call a doctor

  • If they do not respond to infant paracetamol
  • Develops diarrhoea or vomits, with a loss of appetite
  • Develops a fever, cough or cold

“Baby acne looks similar to adult acne and doctors believe it is caused by pregnancy hormones that stimulate the oil glands in the skin.”

4. Thrush

Baby with oral thrush on tongue
Oral thrush

Thrush is a common yeast infection caused by the Candida fungus.

Signs and symptoms

The fungus invades the mouth and throat, forming cracks in the corners of the mouth and white or yellowish patches on the lips and tongues and inside the mouth. These can be painful and your baby may have trouble feeding. The fungus can also cause nappy rash.

Treatment/When to call a doctor

  • Oral antifungal drops will be prescribed and you will need treatment for your nipples if you are breastfeeding.
  • Continue treatment for 10 days AFTER the thrush has disappeared, to prevent reoccurrence.
  • Antifungal cream for the nappy area.
  • Give your baby a probiotic for 10 days.

5. Cradle cap

Small baby with cradle cap
Cradle cap

While it may not look too pleasant, cradle cap is a harmless condition caused by the build-up of oil and the shedding of skin cells.

Signs and symptoms

Cradle cap appears when scaly patches of skin cells and/or redness appear on your baby’s scalp. These patches may appear golden and crusty.


Treat cradle cap yourself by washing your baby’s hair with mild baby shampoo and applying baby oil to the affected area which you must leave on overnight. In the morning, use a soft baby brush to gently remove the scales. Repeat the process for at least a week until all the dry skin has been removed. Olive oil can also be used instead of baby oil.

When to call a doctor

If the cradle cap persists, ask your baby’s doctor about prescribing a medicated shampoo.

6. Baby acne

Baby with baby acne
Baby acne

Baby acne or pimples that break out on the face, typically during the fourth or fifth week of life, are harmless.

Signs and symptoms

Baby acne looks similar to adult acne and doctors believe it is caused by pregnancy hormones that stimulate the oil glands in the skin. It is usually contained to the face, neck and upper chest area.


Use a mild baby soap to gently wash your baby’s face once a day. Apply a mild moisturiser if the skin looks dry and flaky.

When to call a doctor

  • Develops a fever, cough or cold if the acne becomes yellow and crusty.
  • If your baby has a fever and loss of appetite as this may indicate a skin infection.
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