A saliva rash is a form of contact dermatitis that can break out around the mouth, face, and throat in babies. Also known as a dribble rash, it occurs because infants tend to drool and the saliva is alkaline, which irritates the skin. It also contains traces of digestive enzymes which can create further irritation. This condition usually resolves as children age and develop better control over drooling. In some cases medical attention may be required because the infant could also have a skin infection or another problem.
In the mouth, saliva provides lubrication and some of the enzymes needed to start the digestive process. Infants, who are still developing motor control, tend to drool and dribble, leaving deposits of saliva around their mouths. This can cause a rash which may be raised, reddish, and bumpy. The saliva rash may come and go over time.
Several measures can be used to address a saliva rash. Regularly washing a baby’s face with a gentle soap designed for infants and patting it dry can reduce skin irritation. This will remove the saliva deposits so they don’t have a chance to cause skin irritation, without leaving the skin moist; this can cause eczema over time. Using a bib to catch saliva during meals can also help, as can wiping the face with a moistened wipe after the baby has eaten.
Sometimes a saliva rash occurs at the same time as a bacterial infection. Surface bacteria or fungi can take advantage of the skin irritation to start colonizing the skin, in which case the rash may get worse and the infant may become distressed. A gentle topical medication can treat the infection until it clears. It is advisable to talk to a pediatrician or other medical professional trained in caring for children about which medication to use, as infant skin is delicate and some preparations may be too harsh for the face.
Skin creams are also available to soothe skin irritation and keep the skin lubricated to reduce the incidence of eczema. If a baby has a recurrent saliva rash that persists despite keeping the face clean, and an examination reveals no signs of an underlying bacterial infection, it may be advisable to consider using an infant moisturizer. These products can reduce discomfort. They may take several days to be fully effective, and it is again important to use a product safe for infants in order to avoid harming the fragile skin of the face.