Causes and Treatments for a Rash Around the Mouth (With Pictures)
The definition of a rash is any change in the texture, look, or color of your skin. When you have a rash around the mouth, you may notice irritation, redness, pain, and swelling.
Rashes around the mouth can affect people of any age, gender, or race, although the rash may be less visible on people with darker skin.
This article will try to help you find out what is causing your rash or the rash of someone in your care.
When to See a Doctor
Most rashes do not require a trip to the doctor's office and can be treated at home. However, you should see a physician if:1
- You are so uncomfortable that you're losing sleep or are distracted from your daily routines
- Your skin is painful
- You suspect there is an infection (the area feels hot to the touch, is weeping pus, or is very red)
- The problem does not get better with self-treatment within a week
- The rash is accompanied by a fever that cannot be controlled
Most Common Causes of a Rash Around the Mouth for Adults and Children
What It Looks Like
Most common among women ages 20 - 40, usually caused by overexposure to steroid creams or other chemicals
Groups of small red bumps that appear around your mouth
Discontinuation of use of all steroids and other topical treatments
Affects 10 - 20% of children and 3% of adults in the US
Itchy, red, scaly skin
Combination of over-the-counter treatments and self-care
Contact Dermatitis From Another Skin Irritant or an Allergen
A rash develops in reaction to something the skin is sensitive to
Symptoms vary, but the skin may be: painful, red, swollen, itchy, dry, cracked, peeling, oozing, or blistering
Treatment varies depending on cause
Most common in infants — constant presence of saliva on your baby's skin can cause it to become irritated
Flat or slightly raised patches with small red bumps; can also look chapped
Try to keep your baby's skin clean and dry
Pacifiers can keep the area around the mouth wet with saliva, causing irritation
Same as above
Same as above
Most common in infants — food left on the mouth for too long can cause skin irritation
Same as above
Same as above
One of the most common skin infections in children
Causes red sores that break open, ooze fluid, and develop a brown crust
Antibiotics and careful cleaning
This is a skin condition that is more common among women than in men.2 Perioral dermatitis will cause groups of small red bumps to appear around your mouth. The rash can also spread to your upper lip, chin, and cheeks, making these areas of the skin very flaky and dry. The bumps might look like acne and might be filled with pus or fluid. The rash might itch or burn, especially as it gets worse.
Though it is uncertain exactly what causes this condition, it has been linked to the use of topical steroids on the skin, certain ingredients in cosmetics, and heavy skin creams with a petrolatum or paraffin base.
It may also be triggered by2
- Bacterial or fungal infections
- Fluorinated toothpaste
- Bacterial or fungal infections
- Oral birth control pills
Usually a doctor can diagnose this condition just based on a physical examination. Treatment usually involves quitting the use of topical steroid creams or nasal sprays containing steroids since these will make the rash worse.
At home you can take the following steps to treat this condition:2
- Stop using all steroids
- Stop using all harsh cleansers and scrubs — use only gentle, fragrance-free soap when you don't have flare-ups. When you do have a flare-up, wash your face just with warm water and pat your face dry. Don't rub.
- Stop or reduce the use of all products that you put on your face — use only warm water if possible or only very mild, fragrance-free lotions and soaps
- Frequently wash your towels and sheets in hot water
- Avoid salty or spicy foods, which can irritate the area around the mouth
Your doctor may also prescribe immunosuppressants, antibiotics, or topical acne medications depending on your case.
This can be a chronic condition and can take a long time to go away. After stopping the use of all steroids, the rash will likely appear to get worse, but you need to resist the urge to apply anything to it.3 For some people, the rash comes back after successful treatment and usually the same method of treatment works the second time as well.
Important: The treatment of perioral dermatitis and contact dermatitis are very different even though the conditions might resemble one another. If you've been using a steroid cream and your rash seems to get better for a little bit (60 - 90 minutes), but then gets worse, it's likely you have perioral dermatitis and you should stop using all steroids immediately.2
Eczema affects about 10 - 20% of infants and about 3% of the adult population of the US.4It is actually a group of different skin conditions that cause the skin to become red and inflamed.
It can present with rash, scaling, and dryness and is always itchy. In infants, the rash can cause an oozing, crusting condition mainly on the face and scalp.
Your doctor can diagnose whether or not the rash is eczema and help you make a treatment plan. In most babies, the condition clears up by about two years of age.
Treatment involves a variety of soothing lotions, creams, and cold compresses. It may also be recommended to use corticosteroids and antihistamines, which may lessen inflammation and itching.
You should also switch to mild soaps and detergents that are fragrance-free to avoid further irritating the skin.
Eczema can be a chronic condition. Talk to your doctor about treatment solutions.
Infants and small children can get rashes around their mouths if they rub their faces along the clothes their parents are wearing and come into contact with something irritating. This can also happen to adults if they accidentally get something irritating on their face.
There are two forms of contact dermatitis: irritant or allergic.
The symptoms of irritant contact dermatitis are:5
- Cracking skin due to extreme dryness
- Skin that feels stiff or tight
- Open sores that get crusty
Irritant contact dermatitis is caused when the skin has a reaction to a toxic substance, such as detergents and pepper spray. You can also get irritant contact dermatitis when the skin comes into touch with normal substances too often. For example, people whose hands are constantly wet with soap and water for work can get contact dermatitis.
Allergic contact dermatitis happens when your skin comes into contact with something you're allergic to. Common allergens include jewelry made from nickel or gold, latex gloves, perfumes or chemicals in cosmetic or skin care products, and poison oak or poison ivy.
Symptoms of allergic contact dermatitis include:5
- Dry, flaky skin
- Skin redness
- Oozing blisters
- Swelling, especially in face, eyes, or groin
- Extreme itching
- Sun sensitivity
- Skin that looks darkened or leathery
Once the substance is no longer touching your skin, most cases of contact dermatitis will go away on their own. Here are some things you can do at home in the meantime:
- Stop using harsh products or products with fragrances in them
- Don't scratch!
- Keep your skin clean and dry — wash with warm water and a mild soap
- Use bland petroleum jelly to help sooth the area
- Try anti-itch products such as calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream
See a doctor if the rash does not improve with home treatment.
For infants, the rash can be caused by drooling. This is especially true if the saliva is left on the skin for long periods of time.6
According to Healthline, the rashes are normally flat or slightly raised patches that have small red bumps and may appear chapped.
To treat this type of rash, try to keep your baby's skin as clean and as dry as possible. Wipe your baby's face often, especially after feedings, and be sure to use gentle pressure.
Here are some other tips:6
- Wash the affected area with warm water and gently pat dry. Don't rub, as this can cause even more irritation
- Apply a thin coat of a healing ointment like petroleum jelly — this can act as a barrier against the moisture and also provide some relief
- Use mild and unscented detergents and body products to avoid irritating the skin even more
- Change wet clothes immediately and use a bib if necessary
- If the rash doesn't get better, get a hold of your physician
Pacifiers can also cause rashes because they can keep the area around the baby's mouth wet.
To help prevent or treat a rash caused by pacifier use, you can:
- Be sure to keep the pacifier clean
- Use an ointment around the mouth to act as a barrier against the saliva
- Wash the affected area with warm water twice a day and pat gently to dry
- Limit the amount of time with the pacifier (if possible)
If the child smears food around his or her mouth and it is left there for some time, a rash may develop — the causes are the same as a drool rash. Keeping the area dry and clean should help the rash clear up.
Impetigo is a bacterial infection that causes a contagious rash.7 It is most common in children ages two to six. The rash consists of raised red pimple-like bumps that fill with pus and then form a light brown crust around the child's mouth and nose. The sores will often be very itchy.
It is also commonly found on the arms and legs, though it can occur anywhere on the body.
Impetigo is treated with antibiotics. If you think your child has impetigo, you should see a physician for treatment.
In the meantime, be sure to keep the area clean and help your child avoid itching as much as possible. Since the rash is infectious, you should keep from touching someone who has impetigo and be sure to wash your hands very carefully when around someone with the infection.7
Wishing You Good Health
I hope this information has helped you! Remember that this information is not a replacement for the informed opinion of a medical professional — please see a doctor if you have any major concerns about your health.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. "Dermatitis." June 17, 2016. Mayo Clinic. Accessed June 10, 2017.
- Kinman, Tricia, and Ana Gotter. "Perioral Dermatitis." April 10, 2017. Healthline. Accessed June 10, 2017.
- "Perioral Dermatitis." (n.d.) American Osteopatic College of Dermatology. Accessed June 10, 2017.
- Medically reviewed by Debra Jaliman, MD. "Skin Conditions and Eczema." February 3, 2017. WebMD. Accessed June 20, 2017.
- Nall, Rachel, RN, BSN. Medically reviewed by Sarah Taylor, MD. "What Is Contact Dermatitis?" May 19, 2017. Healthline. Accessed June 10, 2017.
- Timmons, Jessica. Medically reviewed by Steven Kim, MD. "How Best to Treat and Prevent a Drool Rash." September 18, 2015. Healthline. Accessed June 10, 2017.
- "Impetigo." (n.d.) MedlinePlus. Accessed June 10, 2017.