She Says… Cherub Cheeks

When most people think of the perfect little angelic baby face, they picture rosy cheeks. But I’m beginning to wonder if Owen’s red cheeks are something more than just the flush of youth. Like, a rash.

For the last month or so (maybe longer?) Owen has had red cheeks. I think they started around the time that we had our first snow here in Boston, so I attributed the redness and chapped feeling to the cold air and wind when we go on our walks. I’ve been putting Aquaphor on them a few times a day since then. The redness hasn’t really gone away, even when we don’t go out in the cold for a few days. Still, I assumed it was just a normal baby thing. He’s been in good spirits and doesn’t seem to mind, so I didn’t think anything of it.

Then right before Christmas he started this habit of scratching at his face. I honestly thought it was just him exploring his face (Oh, I have a face? THAT’S what this thing is?). And maybe it is. But he started scratching at his face during naptimes and at night (times when I couldn’t distract him or move his hands away) so much that he would wake up with little scabs from where he scratched himself raw. I kept his fingernails as short as possible but he still finds a way to wake up with scratches all over his face. He also started scratching at one ear, usually when he drank his bottle. It didn’t really seem like a purposeful scratch, more like a background thing like twirling your hair. Still, I considered that it was an ear infection and looked for other signs (fever, irritability, blah blah). Nada. He seemed happy enough, just red. And bumpy.  Currently he has a little runny nose, but I really have no idea if it’s related.

Then today I got an email from a friend who I met in our mom group a few months ago. She said that her son has had red cheeks for a few weeks and a doctor just diagnosed him with Fifth Disease. Apparently this is a virus that kids get. It’s not a big deal and often goes unnoticed. It doesn’t require much treatment, from what I’ve read, but some topical cream might be helpful if he’s itchy. She presumes that her son got it from the place where we did our moms groups, which means Owen easily could have picked it up the same way. Sounds like it’s contagious very early on before the rash shows up, so we wouldn’t have known anything about it at the time.

It’s hard to tell the difference between cherub cheeks and virus cheeks, eh? Look at my cute little guy.

You can see the red patches on his cheeks, and a week or two ago I noticed some bumps on his arms. Apparently if it is this virus, and not just chapped cheeks from the cold air, it will probably spread to other parts of his body and then go away.

I feel a little bad that I just wrote his redness off as a side effect of the winter wind and didn’t consider that his scratching at his face was anything more than a new habit. I guess it’s good to be calm and not freak out at every little thing, but it still feels like maybe I should have asked a doctor a few weeks ago when it began.

Ummm, oops. Live and learn, I guess.

He has his 6 month check up on the 24th so provided nothing gets worse before then I will wait and ask the doctor at that point.

Anyone out there experienced Fifth disease? Any thoughts on whether the cheeks in question look more like normal baby cheeks or something more sinister?


25 responses to “She Says… Cherub Cheeks

  1. My baby’s cheeks look pinker than Owen’s! My doc said it was dry skin and I put petroleum jelly on them once a day. She doesn’t scratch at them at all. That alone would be worrisome. My baby got a rash one day and my pedi said to try Benadryl and that cleared it right up. Have you tried that? It would at least tell you if it’s an allergy or something else like Fifth’s Disease.

    Other explanation? My baby has recently been sneaking at night and sleeping on her tummy with her face mashed down on the mattress. I didn’t know at first because she rolled to her back before I went in there. I caught her one day and I finally figured out why she always woke up with one red cheek 🙂

  2. I’ve had red cheeks like Owens my entire life…. Wait..maybe not as a baby. But I do now…and the red areas are sometimes bumpy, and when I’m cold they turn really red almost purple. One time some thought my boyfriend (now husband) was abusive, and had punched me in the jaw!
    They itch occasionally, but not enough that I notice or think about it.
    I always just thought it was rosacea? but I’ve never had a doc ask about it, or seen a doctor for it.

  3. Note for slowmiles: Check for chilblains

  4. I hope it’s nothing more than cherub cheeks(his cheeks, sick or not, look sooooo cute!). But definitely check out allergy rashes as a cause.

  5. I would ask the doctor about it regardless. I think red cheeks can also pop up when teething. As if it isn’t hard enoug to figure out what’s going on. My son plays with his face/ears while eating and I am constantly trying to figure out if he has an ear infection or just discovered (again) that he has appendages on the side of his head.

  6. Everly’s cheeks are red too but not quite as bad as Owen’s. It’s because of the lack of humidity in our house. When I run our humidifier, they aren’t as red/dry the next morning (that was my clue that it was the heater/humidity and not something serious).

    Side note though – Everly has a double ear infection right now & she showed ZERO signs (besides shaking her head “No” – which I thought was just a new trick… woops). No fussiness, no fever, no irritability – nothing. Isn’t that wild? Not saying Owen has an ear infection I’m just completely confused/amazed. Took her in today to get her vacs and the doc told me both ears were infected.

    Hope everything is okay with your little buddy! Get him checked out!

  7. Does the redness coincide with your switch to formula? I have a friend who’s son had a slight allergic reaction to one type of formula that caused a rash on his cheeks. All was better after a formula switch.

  8. My son starting getting the red cheeks around 5 months when he started teething. We had to put Aquaphor on his cheeks and chin 2 or 3 times a day for a couple of months. The Aquaphor made a huge difference within a couple of days of using it. And anytime I forgot to put it on. The red cheeks would return quickly. Hope that helps!

  9. When my now 4-year-old was almost 2 he had a couple of days of REALLY red cheeks. We chalked it up to his face being dry/chapped or flushed from changes in temperature, but after a couple of days, it was clear he wasn’t feeling well, and we took him to the pediatrician. He was diagnosed with strep throat/scarlet fever and had to go on antibiotics.
    Nowadays he still has red cheeks almost all the time, but he has very fair skin and I do believe it’s just dry, so I put lotion on each night. They don’t seem to bother him at all.
    I had Fifth Disease when I was 12 years old and it was miserable. I ached all over and the rash was very itchy. Maybe it’s less severe with babies, but my guess is that if Owen had that, he’d be showing a lot more signs of discomfort.

  10. I am wondering if it could be eczema? The redness, chapped feeling, dryness and scratching all sound suspiciously like eczema to me (I come from a family with a lot of allergies, including eczema.) It is often aggravated by cold weather.

    My daughter had Fifth Disease when she was in kindergarten. So did half the kindergarten class. My daughter is a redhead with very sensitive skin and I think she had every “spotted” disease known to mankind. Anyway – the rash usually spreads to other parts of the body within a few days after appearing on the face. It also is most common among older kids – 5 to 15 years or so.

    There’s nothing that can be done – it just eventually clears up on its own, unless there are complications which are VERY rare. Most kids just sail through it. My daughter did.

    However, you might want to check out the eczema thing, just in case.

  11. I had Fifth Disease when I was in fourth or fifth grade, and I just remember having a weird rash on my arms and having to stay out of the sun. Not that my memory is super sharp of that time, but it did look similar to the exterior of Owen’s rashy spots – I didn’t have big blotches, but lots of little vein-y patches, if that makes sense.

  12. Thank you, everyone! I just called the pediatrician and after describing the redness and the arm bumps and all, the nurse said that it sound more like dry skin, and Aquaphor is the best bet (or Eucerin cream, or petroleum jelly… anything like that). She said tugging on his ear or even the scratching is not really indicative of an ear infection at this developmental stage, so she’s not worried. She suggested a humidifer at night (which we’re already doing) and continuing with the moisturizing stuff on the cheeks. Even if it is Fifth disease, there’s nothing to be done but wait it out. So now I feel more comfortable waiting until his 6 month appointment to have someone look at it. I appreciate all of the comments/suggestions/experiences!

  13. My sons cheeks looked very similar and our pediatrician said it was eczema. We’ve been using Triple Cream (available at Target, made by the same people who make TriplePaste diaper ointment which we love!) and started running a humidifier in his room at night and it has really cleared up!

  14. It could be eczema which might/usually suggests food allergies. Is it found just like that on other places of his body too? Eczema typically loves the creases in the arms and legs.

  15. I read somewhere that some babies pull their ears when they are teething – found it, it was on the Dr. Sears website here’s the link:
    My 4 month old is definitely teething right now and has started pulling the ears… as for the cheeks not sure what it could be, but sounds like the nurse is not too worried about it…
    Owen is sooooo cute:)

  16. I’ve just zoomed the picture as much as I can and it does look a lot like eczema to me. I started to get eczema when I was Owens age, but unfortunately for me it spread everywhere. I’m not sure if you guys have it across the pond but aqueous cream it pretty good. It good all rounder and you use it to bathe him with and then give him a good coating once he is dry. There are no perfumes in it and it’s meant for sensitive/eczema prone skin. So it will do absolutely no harm even if it’s not eczema.
    If it does turn out to be eczema and you need support/advice let me know, I suffered for years and I’m sure my mum can remember the highs and lows including completely changing my diet and various other things. Best thing to do is keep a eye on it and if it looks to be spreading or his cheeks become more inflamed take him to the docs.
    Good luck!

  17. Poor little guy–and poor mom! Good luck getting it squared away.

  18. No chance he’s starting to teeth without showing the irritable symptoms? Cameron was teething for a few days a while ago and he got bright red cheeks for about 2 days (along with drooling and really irritable too). I wonder if he’s touching his face because of his gums and scratches himself as a consequence?

  19. @Angie All The Way He’s definitely teething, so that could have something to do with it. I haven’t felt a tooth bud yet, but there’s been an amazing amount of drool/attacking fingers/chewing on everything/gumming and whining going on. But it’s been going on for the last few weeks and no tooth yet!

  20. From one who sees kiddos all day who suffer from eczema in this blasted dry-air of winter… are my favorite recommendations:

    -Aveeno baby lotion, all the time, like onto the cheeks with every diaper change! (fragrance free is KEY as well as the colloidal/oatmeal properties of aveeno)
    -aquaphor can be helpful as well (but very sticky!)
    -on the body (and for a very short time on the face) Over the counter hydrocortisone cream can be very helpful (apply for less than a week)
    -wipe off the drool as much as you can 🙂
    -also, for the body, aveeno oatmeal bath is a great thing as well.

    Sometimes its just enough to accept the winter dry air is here and many tiny ones just have this until summer humidity comes 🙂 good luck!

  21. (i finished residency training in pediatrics)
    i agree that it could definitely be the beginnings of eczema OR just dry skin! i haven’t really seen parvo (5th’s disease) in a baby that young before, but i suppose that could happen — if so, that’s nothing to get too worried about even with the official sounding name 🙂 ! it’s usually quite mild + self-limited.

    he’s so cute, red cheeks or not!!

  22. Austin was diagnosed with fifth’s at his six month well-visit. We weren’t there for the red cheeks, but the doc. caught it and filled us in. It didn’t really seem to affect him beyond a bit of redness on his cheeks and a few patches elsewhere. However, the red cheeks did persist all winter, despite aquaphor applications daily.

  23. Could be so many things, I’d definitely ask the doctor at his appointment about it. If it does turn out to be eczema, or if he just has really sensitive skin, I’d recommend switching to goat’s milk soap. My daughter developed what the pediatrician diagnosed as dermatitis on her arms around 12 months…just small little red bumps. They don’t bother her or itch, but we do have some prescription cream for it that keeps it under control. On another blog I read (cheapandcreative) she mentioned that she started using goat’s milk soap and it helped her son’s eczema. I finally bought some off Etsy to use on my daughter, and OMG, it’s amazing. Not only does it smell wonderful (but not overpowering) but it’s almost completely cleared up the dermatitis.

    Owen just gets cuter! So glad the transition back to work is going well for you.

  24. My son has had red cheeks and I just attributed it to teething. It comes and goes but usually happens in the evenings. Along with the rosy cheeks, he’s been drooling and had ended up with quite the rash on his chin. I read somewhere to use the lanolin lotion (the stuff you may have used when you were breastfeeding, for dry nipples). It worked really well on my son’s drool rash so I don’t see why it wouldn’t work on Owen’s cheeks. I really like using the lanolin because I know it’s completely safe and natural and if my son accidentally gets some of it in his mouth it’s okay. The only thing you have to be careful with the lanolin lotion is that it does stain your clothing.

  25. my daughter, who is 2 weeks younger, than Owen has had the same red cheeks. I have been using ‘Miracle Salve ‘ on her and they go away within 24 hours. I love this salve! I use it for all of our skin irritations and wounds. You can find it at

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