What is a diaper rash?
Diaper rash can be any rash that develops inside the diaper area. In mild cases, the skin might be red. In more severe cases, there may be painful open sores. You will usually see a rash around the abdomen, genitalia, and inside the skin folds of the thighs and buttocks. Mild cases clear up within 3 to 4 days without any treatment. If the rash persists or develops again after treatment, consult your child’s pediatrician.
What causes a diaper rash?
Over the years diaper rash has been blamed on various causes, such as teething, diet, and ammonia in the urine. However, medical experts now believe it is caused by any of the following:
- Too much moisture
- Chafing or rubbing
- Prolonged contact of the skin with urine, feces, or both
- Yeast infection
- Bacterial infection
- Allergic reaction to diaper material
When the skin stays wet for too long, the layers that protect it start to break down. When wet skin is rubbed, it also damages more easily. Moisture from a soiled diaper can harm your baby’s skin and make it more prone to chafing. When this happened, a diaper rash may develop.
Further rubbing between the moist folds of the skin only make the rash worse. This is why diaper rash often forms in the skin folds of the groin and upper thighs.
More than half of babies between 4 months and 15 months of age develop diaper rash at least once in a 2-month period. Diaper rash occurs more often in the following instances:
- As infants get older-mostly between 8 to 10 months of age
- If babies are not kept clean and dry
- In babies who have frequent stools, especially when the stools stay in their diapers for long periods of time/overnight.
- When babies begin to eat solid foods
- When babies are taking antibiotics, or in nursing babies who mothers are taking antibiotics
Infants taking antibiotics are more likely to get diaper rashes caused by yeast infections. Yeast infects the weakened skin and causes a bright red rash with red spots at its edges. You can treat this with over-the-counter antifungal medications. If you see these symptoms, you may wish to consult with your pediatrician.
What can I do to prevent diaper rash?
To help prevent diaper rash from developing, you should:
- Change the diaper promptly after your child wets or has a bowel movement. This limits moisture on the skin.
- Do not put the diaper on airtight, especially overnight. Keep the diaper loose so that the wet and soiled parts do not rub against the skin as much.
- Gently clean the diaper area with water. You do not need to use soap with every diaper change or after every bowel movement. (Breastfed infants may stool as many as 8 times a day).
- Do not use talcum or baby powder because they could cause breathing problems in your infants.
- Avoid over-cleansing with wipes that can dry out the skin. The alcohol or perfume in these products may irritate some babies’ skin.
What can I do if my baby gets diaper rash?
If diaper rash develops despite your best efforts to prevent it, try the following:
- Change wet or soiled diapers often.
- Use clear water to cleanse the diaper area with each diaper change.
- Using water in a squirt bottle lets you clean and rinse without rubbing.
- Pat dry; do not rub. Allow the area to air dry fully.
- Apple a thick layer of protective ointment or cream (such as one that contains zinc oxide or petrolatum) to form a protective coating on the skin. These ointments are usually think and pasty and do not have to be completely removed at the next diaper change. Remember, heavy scrubbing or rubbing will only damage the skin more.
- Check with your pediatrician if the rash:
- Has blisters or pus-filled sores
- Does not go away within 48-72 hours
- Gets worse
Diaper rash is usually not serious, but it can cause your child discomfort. Follow the steps listed above to help prevent and treat diaper rash. Discuss any questions you have about these steps with your child’s pediatrician.