If you have a baby, chances are you'll encounter diaper rash at some point.
Diaper rash, also called diaper dermatitis, refers to skin inflammation in the diaper region. Typically, you'll see red or pink skin with tiny papules or bumps. Your child may be uncomfortable and fussy due to itching, stinging and irritation.
To help your little one heal and feel better again, Nnenna Agim, M.D., Division Director of Dermatology at Children's Health℠ and Associate Professor at UT Southwestern, shares tips about baby's diaper rash.
What causes baby's diaper rash?
"The most common cause of diaper rash is skin irritation from products parents use in the diaper area, such as wipes, cleansing soap, lotions and even the diapers themselves," explains Dr. Agim. "Babies might also develop a rash if urine or stool sits on their skin too long between diaper changes. Another common cause is diarrhea, which contains digestive enzymes that irritate the skin."
Can certain foods or medications cause diaper rash?
Sometimes certain foods and antibiotics will give the baby diarrhea. The increased stool promotes a diaper rash.
Do certain types of diapers tend to cause diaper rash?
Some baby diapers contain preservatives or fragrances that can trigger a rash in children with sensitive skin. Look for diapers that are hypoallergenic and free of dyes and fragrances. Also, watch out for super-absorbent diapers. You may leave them on too long, and that excessive moisture and warmth can lead to diaper rash.
What is the best home remedy for diaper rash?
The best at-home diaper rash remedy is to keep your baby's skin clean and dry and eliminate products that might be causing inflammation. You can also try the following treatments to prevent and treat diaper rash.
At-home diaper rash treatments
- Change baby's diaper frequently.
- Gently clean the diaper area with plain water. Use a little mild soap if your baby is heavily soiled.
- Limit the use of wipes.
- Switch to hypoallergenic wipes and diapers that may be less likely to irritate the skin.
- To soothe and moisturize the area, use plain petroleum jelly or zinc oxide. Make sure the products you choose do not contain additives that might worsen the rash.
- Whenever possible, allow baby's skin to air dry for a minute or two.
Carefully read the labels of over-the-counter antibiotic ointment for diaper rashes before using them. Sometimes ingredients in these products can worsen skin irritation. Common irritants or allergens can include lanolin, beeswax, fragrances such as lavender or eucalyptus, preservatives like methylchloroisothiazolinone (MCI), and even botanicals such as calendula and tea tree oil.
How to wipe baby with diaper rash
"When your baby develops a diaper rash, consider stopping the use of wipes until the rash clears up," suggests Dr. Agim. "Once the baby's skin is clear, you can slowly reintroduce wipes. If you see the rash coming back, your baby might be sensitive to those particular wipes, and you should stop using them."
Instead of using baby wipes to wipe a baby with diaper rash, get a stack of plain, white cotton face cloths and reserve those for diapering. Use those plain cloths – with warm water – to gently clean baby's bottom.
Are baths good for diaper rash?
Baths are good for diaper rash because you can rinse off the urine, stool or skin products that may be triggering inflammation on the baby's bottom. Just be very gentle. Don't use hot water or harsh soaps. Look for soap that does not contain dyes or fragrances.
When should I be concerned about diaper rash?
Certain infections and health issues can also cause severe diaper rashes.
- Yeast infection diaper rash. Some rashes are caused by a yeast infection called candida. Candida grows in warm, moist places, such as under a diaper, particularly when baby has diarrhea. The rash may look bright red or pink. The baby may develop sores or cracks in the skin in severe cases. A yeast diaper rash may also develop after your baby has taken antibiotics. To treat, your pediatrician may prescribe a topical antifungal cream.
- Bacterial infection diaper rash. Streptococcus, the same infection that causes sore throat, can also give your baby a rash.
Other health issues that may cause diaper rash include:
- Inflammatory bowel issue
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Skin conditions such as psoriasis or seborrheic dermatitis
When should I take my baby to the doctor for diaper rash?
Consult your pediatrician about diaper rash if:
- Nothing seems to heal the rash, or it worsens after a couple of days.
- The rash seems especially painful.
- You see blisters, pimples or oozing, crusty sores.
- Your baby develops a fever.
- Your baby takes antibiotic medicine and develops a bright pink or red rash with red spots at the edges.
Some severe diaper rashes will require treatment with a prescription cream or medication.
Most diaper rashes heal within a week or two with the right care. Until then, keep your baby comfortable, well-fed and offer lots of tender loving care.
The Dermatology Clinic at Children's Health provides comprehensive diagnostic, consultative and treatment services for both common and rare dermatologic disorders in children and teens. Learn more about our Dermatology program and services. Or, view more advice to keep your baby healthy and happy.