A rash that appears anywhere on the body of a tiny infant can be distressing. However, a rash that appears behind the ears of a baby often can be identified as a particular, treatable condition. As with any skin condition, it's important to note other symptoms, such as fever, and consult a pediatrician for a more precise evaluation.
The measles rash usually starts behind the ears as flat red spots and then travels down the rest of the body. Measles actually is a respiratory infection, though its most common symptoms are red spots on the skin. Other signs of the disease include a fever, runny nose and cough. Measles has a vaccine, so it is much less common than it was in the past, particularly in the United States and most developed countries. There is no cure for measles; if your infant contracts measles, the virus must run its course.
An inflammation of the scalp or ears, including the area behind the ears, may be seborrheic dermatitis. The skin condition may present as a scaly or oily rash, or it may appear as reddish skin. It's also known as "cradle cap" and is considered to be a combination of skin oil and the presence of a yeast called malessizia. Infrequent cleanings or the use of bath products that contain alcohol may contribute to the problem. A medicated shampoo often can solve the problem, but if it persists, a doctor may need to be consulted.
Also known as German measles, rubella is similar but different than standard measles. In addition to a rash that can begin on the face, neck or behind the ears, rubella is marked by swollen glands behind the ears, a fever, headache, aching joints and a runny nose. Symptoms usually last just a few days, though if a pregnant woman develops rubella, she may be prescribed antibiotics to help diminish the effects of the disease on her and her baby.
If you're unsure about what's causing the rash, consult with a health care provider, such as your pediatrician or a nurse. In general, anything that cools the skin and relieves some of the itching, such as a cool, damp washcloth, can help. In addition, depending on the guidance of your pediatrician, an antihistamine medication may help, too.