How to Identify and Treat Baby Drool Rash

Drool rash occurs from excess saliva, irritating the skin around the mouth

baby drool, drool rash, how to get rid of baby drool,

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Babies explore everything around them with all five senses. Getting to know their world in every way possible is how infants learn, and it's an important step in their development. For a baby, exploration often involves using their mouth, and that can mean a lot of drool. And where there is drool, there is often drool rash.

If you are wondering what causes a drool rash, read on. You will discover how you can prevent the rash around your baby's mouth as well as help keep them more comfortable while their skin heals.

Why Babies Drool

Drooling starts around 3 to 6 months of age, when babies become "oral-centric." Drool actually serves several important functions. For instance, a baby's saliva communicates information about their health.

When a breastfed baby is nursing, bacteria and other microbes in the baby's saliva interact with the parent's mammary glands, influencing the composition of the breast milk. If the baby is sick, for instance, a parent's milk can change in response, containing more of the antibodies that the baby needs to overcome the illness. 

What Baby Saliva Does

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), baby saliva is important for: 

  • Moistening solid food in the mouth
  • Starting the digestion process by breaking down starches
  • Helping the baby swallow 
  • Washing away food residue
  • Protecting the baby's teeth from cavities

Causes of Drool Rash

Drool rash can happen when a baby produces excess saliva that irritates the skin around the mouth. The most commonly affected areas are the lips, chin, and cheeks, although the neck and chest may be affected if saliva stays in contact with those areas for a prolonged period of time.

You may notice red, inflamed skin or small red bumps that form a rash around your baby's mouth. In some cases, a drool rash can be caused by teething. The AAP explains that increased saliva during teething might help protect and soothe a baby's tender gums.

Most of the time, however, drool rash does not have a specific cause and is simply the result of a baby who produces a lot of saliva. There's nothing necessarily wrong with the baby or even the amount of drool.

Babies who use a pacifier can develop a drool rash because the skin around the pacifier is constantly wet. Residual breast milk or formula left around a baby's mouth for long periods of time can also irritate the skin and lead to a rash.

Preventing Drool Rash

It can be difficult for parents and caregivers to deal with drool rash, since babies seem to produce an endless amount of saliva. In instances where the rash is caused by something temporary, like teething, the rash won't last forever.

As your baby's teeth come in and they learn other ways to explore the world, the amount of drool will decrease, and the rash will too.

If you know that your baby is teething, you can prepare for increased drooling and ward off a rash before it becomes bothersome to your child. The best way to do that is to create a barrier between your baby's skin and the saliva. This step will help prevent or minimize drool rash.

  • Place a waterproof bib on your baby during drooling episodes. A bib can help keep saliva from getting to your baby's chest and irritating the skin. 
  • Change your baby's shirt if it becomes damp with drool. Leaving a wet shirt on your baby can irritate their skin. Changing their clothing when it is damp can help keep the irritation at bay. 
  • Clean your baby's face after feedings. Instead of rubbing, blot your baby's face with a cloth dampened with water. Avoid soap or cleansing wipes, as these could cause more irritation. 
  • Wipe the drool. Use a soft cloth to frequently blot any excess drool from your baby's skin when you are with them. When you're away, send a burp cloth with your infant and speak to their caregiver or daycare provider about trying to keep the rash area dry. 
  • Check your baby's pacifiers and bottles. Make sure your baby's pacifier or bottle is not causing irritation. Pacifiers should be sanitized daily to prevent bacterial growth, and bottles should be washed after each feeding.

Treatment for Drool Rash

Treatment for a drool rash involves supporting the skin's healing process while preventing further irritation. The AAP recommends rinsing your baby's face with water after feedings or when they spit up.

Then, pat the area dry. Try not to rub your baby's face. This can be irritating to their already sensitive skin. When done, make sure your baby's face is completely dry.

Look for ways to reduce potential irritants in your baby's environment. Use unscented soap for baths and consider switching to a fragrance-free detergent for your little one's clothing and bedding.

Consider washing your own clothes in the same detergent and limiting your use of scented lotions or perfumes. What you put on your clothing or skin could also aggravate your baby's drool rash.

Tips for Faster Healing

Follow these tips for faster healing.

  • Let your little one be naked. The best thing for inflamed skin? Fresh air. Allowing your baby to go without a shirt will let the skin dry out naturally. 
  • Limit pacifier use. If you notice your baby's pacifier tends to make the rash worse by keeping the skin around your child's mouth wet, you may want to limit use. On the other hand, a pacifier may help reduce the amount of drool that actually comes out of your baby's mouth, so experiment to see what works best for your baby.
  • Put a barrier on your baby's skin. With your pediatrician's approval—and if the baby has no skin sensitivities—you can apply an emollient such as Aquaphor or petroleum jelly to the inflamed areas, making sure the skin is clean and dry first. This will help protect the skin from further irritation. 

When to See a Healthcare Provider

Although drooling normal, there are a few situations that could be a cause for concern. Increased drooling in a baby can also be a sign of an infection. If your baby seems unusually fussy or irritable, isn't sleeping well, has a poor appetite, or has a fever with swollen glands, take your child to the pediatrician to be checked.

It can be difficult to tell if your drooling infant has an infection or is simply teething, because a fever can also occur with teething. Teething-related fevers are normally under 101 degrees F, however. When in doubt, pay a visit to your child's pediatrician just in case. 

If your baby's drool rash doesn't improve or worsens to the point of bleeding or being painful, speak to a healthcare provider about other possible solutions.

When to Get Immediate Help

Call 911 immediately if your baby suddenly starts drooling and shows other symptoms such as:

  • Lethargy
  • Difficulty swallowing or breathing
  • Jerky movements

A child who is drooling suddenly, opening their mouth wide, and having trouble breathing may be choking on a foreign object.

A Word From Verywell

While drooling is completely normal and to be expected most of the time, it can cause your baby's skin to become irritated, especially if the skin remains wet for a long time. The good news is that drool rash is relatively easy to prevent and treat with simple at-home measures like keeping your baby's skin clean and dry.

If your baby's rash occurs alongside other symptoms or gets to the point where it is painful or particularly uncomfortable for you baby, talk to their pediatrician. You also should talk to a healthcare provider first before putting an emollient on the skin near your baby's mouth.

6 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Drooling and your baby.

  2. Al-Shehri SS, Knox CL, Liley HG, et al. Breastmilk-saliva interactions boost innate immunity by regulating the oral microbiome in early infancyPLoS ONE. 2015 Sep 1;10(9):e0135047. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0135047

  3. American Academy of Pediatrics. Rashes and birthmarks.

  4. Weatherspoon D, Sullivan DH. Baby's skin. Int J Childbirth Educ. 2018;33(2):13-7.

  5. Obiajuru IO, Ikpeama CA, Ohalete CN, Uduchi IO. Teething problems and the influence of microbial infections. Int J Nurs Crit Care. 2017; 1(01).

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By Chaunie Brusie, RN, BSN
Chaunie Brusie is a registered nurse with experience in long-term, critical care, and obstetrical and pediatric nursing.