Diaper rash is a generalized term indicating any skin irritation that develops in the diaper-covered region. Synonyms include diaper dermatitis, napkin dermatitis, and ammonia dermatitis. While there are several broad categories of causes of diaper rash, contact irritation is the most common culprit. While diaper rash is generally thought to affect infants and toddlers, any individual wearing a diaper is a candidate to develop this dermatitis.
Causes of Diaper Rash
- Leaving a wet or dirty diaper on too long
- Rubbing or chafing against the diaper itself
- Yeast infection
- Bacterial infection
- Allergic reaction to diaper
A harmless rash that's often seen on a baby's scalp, called cradle cap, can also show up on his bottom. Doctors call it seborrheic dermatitis. It causes red and waxy patches that eventually go away without treatment. You might notice it on other parts of your baby's body, too.
Babies get a diaper rash more often when they:
- Get older -- especially between 9 and 12 months old
- Sleep in poopy diapers
- Have diarrhea
- Start eating solid foods
What does diaper rash look like?
If your child's diaper area looks irritated and red, chances are it's a diaper rash. The skin may also be a little puffy and feel warm. Diaper rash can be mild, with just a few red spots in a small area, or extensive, with tender red bumps that spread to your child's tummy and thighs. Most parents have to deal with diaper rash at some point, especially in the first year or so of their child's life.
Tips for Treating Diaper Rash
1. Diaper-changing tips
When your baby has a diaper rash, you must be persistent about diaper changing. It’s best to change your baby’s diapers often, ideally as soon as it’s soiled. Rinse cloth diapers two to three times to remove all soap after you’ve cleaned them. Superabsorbent disposable diapers can help keep your baby’s skin dry.
2. Keep it clean and dry
The most important way to prevent and treat a rash is to keep your baby’s diaper dry and clean. Lay your baby down on a towel whenever they aren’t wearing a diaper. Giving them some time without a diaper during the day may help them to keep the area dry. When you change your baby’s diaper, clean the diaper area gently with a soft cloth and a little water from a bottle. Wipes are okay, but make sure to be gentle. Don’t rub the skin too hard, and avoid wipes with alcohol.
3. Creams and jellies
You can use pastes or barrier creams that contain zinc to soothe the skin and prevent contact with feces and other irritants. Examples of these products include:
4. Give your baby's bottom more time without a diaper
When possible, let your baby go without a diaper. Exposing skin to air is a natural and gentle way to let it dry. To avoid messy accidents, try laying your baby on a large towel and engage in some playtime while he or she is bare-bottomed.
5. Rinse your baby's bottom with warm water as part of each diaper change
You can use a sink, tub or water bottle for this purpose. Moist washcloths, cotton balls and baby wipes can aid in cleaning the skin, but be gentle. Don't use wipes with alcohol or fragrance. If you wish to use soap, select a mild, fragrance-free type.
Diaper rashes usually require several days to improve, and the rash may come back repeatedly. If the rash persists despite prescription treatment, your doctor may recommend that your baby see a specialist in skin conditions.