Thumb-sucking is a common habit among young children because it offers comfort and security. Many children begin sucking their thumb in utero and continue the habit through the infant and toddler years. If your baby sucks his thumb regularly, you might notice that his skin is dry, red, cracked, chapped or appears to have a rash. Most likely, it is just a side effect of thumb-sucking, but once you have all the facts, you can speak with his pediatrician about appropriate treatment options.
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According to the New York University Child Study Center, three-quarters of all babies suck their thumb or fingers during the first year of life. Thumb sucking is an activity that helps soothe and entertain your little one and is not something to worry about unless your child is still sucking his thumb after he has his fifth birthday. Prolonged thumb-sucking can lead to dental problems and might make your child more susceptible to teasing at school. Dry, chapped and red skin is another complaint and occurs because of the frequent contact your child's skin has with his saliva.
Frequent thumb-sucking can cause your baby's skin to become very dry, which can result in a flaky and red appearance. According to Jennifer Trachtenberg, author of "Good Kids, Bad Habits: The RealAge Guide to Raising Healthy Children," when your baby's skin is in frequent contact with his saliva, it can cause a rash. Your baby might also develop a rash around his mouth if he drools while he sucks his thumb. This type of rash develops because of the frequent changes between a wet and dry environment that your baby's skin experiences.
Prevention and Treatment
Keep your child's thumb and the skin around his mouth as dry as possible. Wipe any drool off his face as soon as possible and keep his thumb dry when he is not sucking it. A rash can be prevented by reducing the amount of time the skin spends in contact with your baby's saliva. If your baby has already developed a rash, keep the area clean. Apply a mild lotion or skin cream to the rash to keep it moist and to encourage healing. If you keep your baby's face well-moisturized, it can help cut down on his chances of developing a rash.
If your baby's rash does not improve, or gets worse, over two or three days, speak with his pediatrician. Babies can get rashes for many reasons, and only your doctor can determine the exact cause. If your baby does not get a rash often, consider what he ate or drank just before sucking his thumb. Certain foods and drinks might irritate his skin and cause a contact rash.
- KidsHealth: Questions and Answers
- What to Expect: Thumb-Sucking Baby
- BabyCenter: Thumb-Sucking
- Good Kids, Bad Habits: The RealAge Guide to Raising Healthy Children; Jennifer Trachtenberg
- NYU Child Study Center: Thumb-Sucking and Children