Baby Legs Turn Purple When Held

Rashes in newborns are often harmless, but dermatologists advise staying alert for symptoms that may be a sign of disease.

These include the discoloration of certain areas of skin, which may appear purple in tone. 

Acrocyanosis, also known as transient acral erythema or “alligator skin”, is largely temporary and generally fades after a week or two. 

However, it can also signal an underlying health condition such as a blood disorder, liver disease, or metabolic abnormality.

Other symptoms that are indicative of a more serious illness include swelling, blistering, fever, lethargy, jaundice, and/or discoloration at birth.

What if the baby legs turn purple when held persists?

Baby Legs Turn Purple When Held

A person’s heart serves as a pump for the circulatory system, which moves oxygenated blood through arteries and veins to the rest of the body.

If the heart stops working, blood flow stops, and the body fails to get oxygen. 

The heart is protected by a thin wall of muscle covered by a mesh of connective tissue.

If this barrier is broken, blood leaks out of blood vessels and into surrounding tissues or cavities, causing swelling, inflammation, or even death from loss of blood flow.

This is what happens when a baby’s legs turn purple when held.

Acrocyanosis, or “blue baby syndrome,” is characterized by a bluish tint to the skin of the hands and toes of newborns, which often occurs within the first several hours after birth.

The blue color is a result of decreased blood flow and oxygen when moving through the narrow vessels of the limbs.

In infants, acrocyanosis causes a discoloration of the arms or legs related to a decreased temperature in those areas.

This is usually described as casting a blue, purple, or dark tint on the skin. In darker-skinned children, this can be hard to spot. Acrocyanosis is often harmless.

Nevertheless, if a baby develops discoloration and there are other symptoms involved, such as breathing problems or bluish lips, then it could be something more serious and should be treated immediately.

1. Two Forms of Acrocyanosis 

Acrocyanosis is characterized by an unexplained color change on the skin.

Primary acrocyanosis is generally insignificant, but secondary acrocyanosis can be a symptom of a serious medical condition.

Primary Acrocyanosis

In newborns, primary acrocyanosis is generally benign and self-resolving in the first few days of life.

This occurs when blood vessels don’t pump enough oxygen to extremities.

In other words, it’s due to exposure to cool temperatures in early life affecting the flow of blood and oxygen through blood vessels

Babies who spend time in intensive care after birth are susceptible to blood vessels that have tightened due to lower temperatures.

As a result, the hands or feet will turn purple. These effects are reversed with warmth or movement.

Secondary Acrocyanosis

Secondary acrocyanosis is a painful condition that can lead to serious health problems.

The pain of secondary acrocyanosis may be accompanied by discoloration of the hands or feet. 

These symptoms are often caused by several underlying conditions or diseases including vascular diseases, infections, or some cancers.

Secondary acrocyanosis may occur in people with severe Raynaud’s disease as well as in healthy people.

2. Symptoms and Mistaken Linked Conditions

Some of the common symptoms of acrocyanosis include 

If your baby’s fingers, legs, and toes are blue or purple and he/she is experiencing cold hands and toes, 

  • Blue fingers and toes
  • Poor blood flow
  • Lower skin temperatures
  • Swelling of feet and hands
  • A normal pulse rate,

A return to warmer temperatures and increased activity will help with the symptoms of this condition.

Acrocyanosis, though usually a benign condition, can sometimes be mistaken for other diseases. They include:

  • Cyanosis

A bluish skin tone in your child’s facial area could indicate a condition called cyanosis, in which the blood cells can’t carry oxygen well.

Visit a medical professional at once if you suspect that your infant has this problem.

  • Mottling

Mottling, which appears as blotchy skin on an infant’s body, is usually benign and nothing to worry about.

However, it can be a sign of an underlying circulatory, infectious, or even heart problem if you spot mottling in the skin of your premature or sick infant. 

  • Raynaud’s Disease

Babies who have Raynaud’s disease have an exaggerated response to cold or stress.

They may go through brief episodes of numbness in their hands, feet, ears, or nose even when they are not in cold environments. 

This response might be triggered by something like a sudden gust of wind, or even by psychological stress.

The severity of the condition varies; it is often associated with an underlying medical condition or substance abuse.

3. Approaches to Help you Manage Acrocyanosis

The effectiveness of treatments for acrocyanosis is not well-understood.

Very few clinical trials have looked at treatment options, but doctors may suggest some of the following approaches help you manage your baby’s condition:

  • Body Warming

Warming the body is an effective treatment for newborns and infants who are experiencing a hypothermia-like condition called acrocyanosis.

Keeping your hands and toes warm can prevent the onset of hypothermia in others.

  • Tablets and Medications

Medications such as calcium channel blockers, alpha-blockers, and topical nicotinic acid derivatives can be used to treat patients with severe acrocyanosis.

  • Words of Assurance

Medical professionals believe that it’s important to reassure patients of a benign diagnosis.

Learn more from another post: Why Are My Nipples Turning Purplish


When a baby’s legs turn purple when held, there is a high likelihood they have acrocyanosis.

Your baby’s mottled skin development is likely a result of a lack of oxygen supply.

If the discoloration looks better after changing positions, this likely means that nothing serious is wrong with your baby. 

It’s not uncommon for your baby to have a slight blueish discoloration in his or her hands, legs, and feet. In most cases, he or she doesn’t need any special care. 

However, if his or her hands and toes turn and remain blue and are accompanied by other symptoms (such as not eating properly), contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible.

In rare instances in which your baby’s condition becomes worse or he or she develops trouble breathing, he or she may need medical attention right away.

Related: Baby Stiffens Legs When Lying Down

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do my baby’s legs turn purple when holding him?

When a baby’s lungs cannot seem to get enough oxygen, his or her blood can turn blue (“cyanosis”), which can be seen in the veins beneath the skin.

The veins are moving sluggishly, and the underlying blood in these veins is deprived of oxygen, so they stand out more visibly.

A baby’s skin color can clue parents into whether his or her blood is carrying enough oxygen.

Healthy veins near the surface of the skin will appear dark blue.

On the other hand, veins that are not carrying enough oxygen appear a lighter shade of blue and are often more visible when they come close to the surface of the skin.

Is it normal for a newborn’s legs to turn purple?

Sometimes a newborn’s hands and toes may look blue because their blood circulation is not sufficiently developed.

However, if the rest of the body is blue as well, this could be a sign of jaundice.

Why do my 6-month-old’s feet turn purple?

Parents should check their children’s skin color in several places over the body whenever there is any concern that the child may be blue.

They should not be alarmed if the hands and toes are a lighter blue, as this is a normal physiological phenomenon.

It is not uncommon for a newborn’s hands and toes to appear bluish.

This is because blood vessels are near the skin surface and are more easily seen there. As your baby grows, the color of their hands and toes will change with the rest of their body’s skin tone.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top