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Diaper Rash: Common Causes and Effective Treatment

Diaper rash is very common among infants and toddlers, so at some point, your child may develop this uncomfortable skin condition. Parents should be aware of common causes of this condition as well as the best ways to treat it at home. Read on to learn everything you need to know about diaper rash.

Diaper rash

What is diaper rash?

Diaper rash, also called diaper dermatitis, is a skin condition that can affect babies and toddlers. This condition is very common, and many babies will develop it at some point. Fortunately, most babies don’t get severe diaper rash.

One study of 1,089 infants found that a whopping 50 percent had diaper rash. Fortunately, only 5 percent of these babies had severe diaper rash.

Diaper rash is one of the most common skin disorders in babies, and while newborn diaper rash can occur, diaper rash most often occurs when babies are 9–12 months old. One study of 1,089 infants found that a whopping 50 percent had diaper rash. Fortunately, only 5 percent of these babies had severe diaper rash.

Signs of diaper rash

The symptoms of diaper rash will vary among different types of diaper rash, and the symptoms can vary from one child to another. Generally, parents should be on the lookout for red, sore-looking, fissured, or eroded skin on the diaper area, waist, or thighs. Babies may also cry during diaper changes.

Babies with diaper rash will usually have redness or small bumps on areas of their skin that have come in direct contact with their diapers. In mild cases, the skin is pink, while in more severe cases, it’s red and raw. 

This rash can be uncomfortable for babies, so parents may notice changes in their baby’s behavior. Babies may seem more fussy than normal. Bath time may also be difficult, and babies may cry when their diaper area is washed.

Common causes of diaper rash

Usually, diaper rash occurs when a wet or dirty diaper irritates a baby’s skin, but this isn’t the only possible cause of the condition. Diaper rash can also be caused by yeast infections, tight-fitting diapers, bacteria, allergies, and overhydration.

In most cases, diaper rash occurs when a baby’s skin is irritated from direct contact with urine and feces. This may happen if they wear a wet or dirty diaper for too long. Babies are more prone to diaper rash if they’re experiencing diarrhea. 

Usually, diaper rash occurs when a wet or dirty diaper irritates a baby’s skin, but this isn’t the only possible cause of the condition.

Infections are another possible cause of diaper rash. Candida, a type of yeast, is found on everyone’s body. Normally, this yeast is harmless, but in a wet, dirty diaper, it can thrive, resulting in an infection. Yeast isn’t the only possible cause of an infection in the diaper area; bacteria like staph or strep can also overgrow here. Check for oral candidiasis, which may present as creamy, white patches or lesions in the mouth, if yeast infection is present in the diaper area.

Diapers that fit too snugly can rub against the skin, resulting in a rash. In addition, when diapers are too tight, they can block airflow to the skin. This can cause the skin in the diaper area to remain too moist, which creates the perfect environment for diaper rash to develop. 

Allergens and irritants can also cause diaper rash. Some babies react to certain baby wipes, baby oils, or disposable diapers. Babies may also react to detergents or fabric softeners used to launder cloth diapers. 

Risk factors for diaper rash

Many risk factors can increase the likelihood of diaper rash. These include sensitive skin, the introduction of new foods, and using antibiotics. 

Just like adults, babies can have sensitive skin. Babies with atopic dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis, or other skin conditions may be more susceptible to diaper rash. 

Babies tend to be affected by diaper rash when they’re 9–12 months old, right when they start eating solid foods. Introducing new foods to your baby’s diet will change both the content and frequency of their stools, and this can cause irritation.

Among the risk factors increasing the likelihood of diaper rash are sensitive skin, the introduction of new foods, and using antibiotics.

While antibiotics can kill dangerous bacteria and cure infections, they can also kill good bacteria. When these good bacteria are depleted, yeast may be able to take their place, resulting in an infection. This can happen if babies take antibiotics or if mothers take antibiotics while they’re breastfeeding.

Diaper rash treatment

Diaper rash can usually be treated at home. The rash can take several days to go away, and once it heals, it may come back. If the rash doesn’t get better after home treatment, doctors may recommend other treatments. 

Some effective home remedies for diaper rash include:

  • Keeping the baby dry by changing wet diapers frequently
  • Changing diapers immediately after a bowel movement
  • Rinsing the baby’s skin with water during diaper changes
  • Applying baby diaper rash creams or diaper rash ointment throughout the day
  • Airing out the baby’s irritated skin
  • Bathing the baby every day
  • Avoiding harsh detergents, wipes with alcohol, and plastic pants
  • Skipping baby powders, which can injure a baby’s lungs if inhaled accidentally
  • Using antifungal cream for yeast infection

Do not use coconut oil or cornstarch for diaper rash. There is no evidence that coconut oil can improve diaper rash, and cornstarch can actually help yeast grow.

Depending on the cause of the rash, medications against it may include steroid cream, antifungal cream, or antibiotics.

Asking your doctor for advice is the best way to determine the proper course of treatment for diaper rash. After examining the rash, the doctor may decide that prescription medication is necessary. Depending on the cause of the rash, these medications may include steroid cream, antifungal cream, or antibiotics. 

Ways to prevent diaper rash

While diaper rash is a very common skin condition among babies, there are plenty of things parents can do to reduce the likelihood of their child developing it. 

To help prevent a rash, keep your child’s diaper area clean and dry. You can do this by changing their wet, soiled diapers frequently. During diaper changes, clean their skin with a wet, soft cloth. Diaper wipes can irritate their delicate skin.

Exposing your baby’s skin to the air can also help prevent a rash. As often as possible, let your baby go without a diaper. As little as 10 minutes, 3 times per day, can make a difference. To avoid messes, let your child play diaperless on a waterproof sheet or towel. 

When to see a pediatrician

Take your child to a pediatrician if their rash doesn’t respond to home treatment. You should also seek medical attention for your child if their rash is accompanied by other concerning symptoms, like a fever.  

If your child’s rash is bleeding, itching, or oozing, take them to the pediatrician for an examination. A rash that’s accompanied by a fever should be evaluated by a doctor.

Usually, diaper rash can be treated at home with frequent diaper changes and diaper rash creams. However, if you’ve been using these remedies for a few days with no improvement, take your baby to their pediatrician. The pediatrician may offer other treatments, such as prescription medications. 

If your child’s rash is bleeding, itching, or oozing, take them to the pediatrician for an examination. They should be seen by a doctor if they seem to be in pain when they urinate or have a bowel movement. A rash that’s accompanied by a fever should be evaluated by a doctor. 

Conclusion

Many infants and toddlers develop diaper rash, an uncomfortable skin condition. Fortunately, this condition can often be treated with home remedies, and when these remedies aren’t enough, prescription treatments are available. If you’re worried about your child’s rash, take them to their pediatrician.

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