Erythema toxicum

Alternative names
Erythema toxicum neonatorum

Erythema toxicum is a benign condition of the newborn characterized by a central whitish to yellowish-white papule surrounded by reddened skin; the papule appears temporarily for a period ranging from hours to days and then disappears (evanesces).

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Erythema toxicum may appear in 50 percent or more of all normal newborn infants. It usually appears in term infants between the ages of three days and two weeks. Its cause is unknown. The condition may be present in the first few hours of life, generally appears after the first day, and may last for several days. Although the condition is harmless, it can be of great concern to the new parent.

There may be a few or many whitish papules and the associated erythema (redness) may be splotchy and extensive. The lesions are usually on the face and trunk, but they can also appear on other areas of the body including the upper arms, and thighs. Individual lesions are often transient, appearing in one area for several hours and then appearing in a different location.


  • small whitish papule surrounded by reddened skin in the newborn infant

Signs and tests
Examination by your health care provider during a routine well-baby exam is usually sufficient to make the diagnosis. No testing is usually needed.

The large red splotches typically disappear without any treatment or changes in skin care.

Expectations (prognosis)
You can expect full clearing of the lesions within two weeks.

There are no complications.

Calling your health care provider
Discuss the condition with your health care provider during a routine examination if you are concerned.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 4, 2012
by Harutyun Medina, M.D.

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