Diaper rash is a common condition that can make a baby's skin sore, red, scaly,
and tender. Most cases will clear up with simple changes in diapering.
What Causes Diaper Rash?
Usually, diaper rash is the result of an irritation, infection, or allergy.
Irritation. A baby's skin can get irritated when a diaper is
left on for too long and poop (or the diaper itself) rubs against the skin repeatedly.
Infection. Urine (pee) changes the skin's pH levels, and that
grow more easily. The substances that stop diapers from leaking also prevent
air circulation, creating a warm, moist environment where bacteria and fungi can thrive,
causing a rash.
Allergies. Babies with sensitive skin also can develop rashes.
Some types of detergent, soaps, diapers (or dyes from diapers), or baby wipes can
affect sensitive skin, causing a rash.
Also, starting new foods can change the content and frequency of a baby's poop,
which can sometimes lead to a diaper rash. And diarrhea
can make an existing case of diaper rash worse.
Diaper rash that lasts for more than a few days, even with changes to the diapering
routine, might be caused by a
called Candida albicans. This rash is usually red, slightly raised,
and has small red dots spreading beyond the main part of the rash. It often starts
in the deep creases of skin and can spread to skin on the front and back of the baby.
Antibiotics given to a baby or a breastfeeding mom can cause this, as they kill off
the "good" bacteria that keep Candida from growing.
How Is Diaper Rash Treated?
To help clear up diaper rash, check your baby's diaper often and change it as soon
as it's wet or soiled. Gently clean the diaper area with soap and water and pat dry.
Creams and ointments containing zinc oxide or petroleum help to soothe skin and protect
it from moisture. They should be smeared on thickly (like cake icing) at each diaper
Some experts suggest letting your baby go without diapers for several hours each
day to give irritated skin a chance to dry and "breathe." This is easiest
if you place your baby in a crib with waterproof sheets or on a large towel on the
Diaper rash usually goes away within 2 to 3 days with home care, although it can
How Can I Prevent Diaper Rash?
To prevent diaper rash, keep your baby's skin as dry and clean as possible and
change diapers often so that poop and pee don't irritate the skin.
Try these tips:
Change your baby's soiled or wet diapers as soon as possible and clean the area
Occasionally soak your baby's bottom between diaper changes with warm water. You
can gently scoop the water over your baby's bottom with your hand or squeeze it from
a plastic bottle.
Let your baby's skin dry completely before you put on another diaper.
Pat the skin gently with a soft cloth when drying it — rubbing can irritate skin.
Put the diaper on loosely to prevent chafing.
Change diapers often — ideally every 2 hours or so — and after every poop.
Applying diaper cream or ointment with each diaper change can help some babies
with sensitive skin, but not all babies need this.
If you use cloth diapers, check the manufacturer's directions on how to best clean
them. Only use detergents in the amount recommended, and run an extra rinse cycle
after washing to remove traces of soap or detergent that can irritate your baby's
skin. Avoid using fabric softeners and dryer sheets — even these can irritate skin.
Some babies get a rash after switching to a new type of diaper. While experts don't
recommend any particular brand, if your child is sensitive, look for diapers free
of dyes or fragrances. Some babies are sensitive to baby wipes — water and a washcloth
work just as well and may be a gentler option.
When Should I Call the Doctor?
If the rash doesn't go away, gets worse, or if sores appear on your baby's skin,
talk to your doctor. Also get medical care if your baby has a fever,
pus is draining from the rash, or if your child is fussier than usual.
Depending on what type of rash your baby has, the doctor may choose to use an antifungal
cream or an antibiotic cream, or may recommend other changes to your diapering routine.
Sometimes, if those changes don't help a rash caused by an allergic reaction,
the doctor may prescribe a mild steroid cream for a few days until the rash goes away.