What you need to know about diaper rash treatments

Published by 
Jess Miller
Last updated: 
February 6, 2018
what you need to know about diaper rash treatment

Diaper rash is a miserable experience for babies and parents most caregivers are keen to avoid. Do you know what it takes to prevent diaper rash, and how to treat it quickly and effectively when it does pop up? In this handy guide, we’ve included everything you need to know about skin irritation, diaper rash treatments, and how to make sure your little ones make a full recovery. Let’s get started!

What is diaper rash?

Diaper rash is skin irritation caused by wearing a diaper. 

Technically, it can also occur in older children who are incontinent or wear adult diapers for some other reason, but it’s most commonly associated with young children, especially those approximately six to twelve months of age.

What does diaper rash look like?

Diaper rash usually makes itself very obvious and is easy to identify thanks to its red appearance. Sometimes the skin appears scaly and sometimes it even blisters or looks like a burn. This kind of baby rash might be blotchy or even slightly puffy and warm to the touch.

The mildest cases look like just a few red dots. It can occur anywhere inside the diaper area, including on the baby’s thighs, genital folds, or bottom, and may even spread down her legs or up onto her tummy.

What causes diaper rash?

Diaper rashes are extremely common. In fact, most children will get at least one before they turn three years of age. Diaper rashes are caused by a variety of factors and identifying the cause plays an important role in diaper rash treatment. One of the most frequent causes of newborn rash or diaper rash is prolonged contact with stool or urine. If the dirty diaper isn’t promptly replaced, the resulting irritation can be difficult to subdue.

Allergies

Diaper rash can also be an allergic reaction or the result of sensitive skin. During their first year of life, babies are trying all kinds of new foods, and their bodies might discover allergies to foods like gluten or bananas. They also might be reacting to the diapers or wipes you’re using (if you’re using disposables) or the laundry soap in your cloth diapers. If you changed anything recently and are noticing diaper rashes, that can be a sign that you’ve got a food sensitivity or allergy on your hands!

Antibiotics

You might also notice a diaper rash if your little one (or his breastfeeding mother) is prescribed antibiotics. Antibiotics will often wreak havoc on the natural microflora in a baby’s developing intestines and digestive tract, leading to a rash.

Friction

Friction is another common rash cause. If your baby’s skin is sensitive, or her diaper is too tight, or her diaper is being changed often and her sensitive skin is being wiped frequently, she might develop contact irritation. She might also start to develop irritation in the folds of her skin, particularly around her thighs, as her skin rubs together.

Yeast infection

Finally, your baby might be experiencing a yeast infection, also known as a fungal or candida infection. This is common after the use of antibiotics and occurs often in warm, moist areas. This is also a very common cause of diaper rash in little ones.

Your child also might get a diaper rash as a result of a staph infection, but this is very rare.

Preventing diaper rash

Preventing diaper rash, particularly if your child is prone to it, is very important. Diaper rash is not usually life-threatening but it can be extremely uncomfortable or even cause serious pain for your little one. This is an instance where a proverbial ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

Change their diaper often

Doctors agree that today’s disposable diapers are extremely absorbent and do a great job of wicking moisture away from the skin. Even with this help, however, it’s still important to check your baby’s diaper frequently at least until he or she is old enough to communicate the need for a change. A diaper change every few hours is usually an effective way to keep urine and feces from causing your son’s skin excess irritation.

Air things out

Letting your child air out in between diaper cleanings is also a great way to prevent diaper rash. Allowing her to run around without a diaper for five or so minutes can go a long way in allowing air to circulate, helping to limit the moist environment in which rashes thrive. Skin that is dry and clean before the diaper is reapplied is the least likely to become irritated later.

Make sure the diaper fits

Also, be careful not to apply the diaper too tightly, or to let the tape adhere or stick to your child’s skin. Your child’s diaper size should also be appropriate for his or weight range; keep in mind, that if she has particularly full thighs, for example, you might need to go up a size or try a different brand of diaper. A diaper that moves with your child without having to be restrictive will help ensure that there is no undue irritation or breaks in the skin that can allow further issues to develop.

Wash your hands

Finally, make sure you wash your hands before and after changing diapers (and washing your child’s hands during the day is a great idea too!). This helps to limit and prevent all kinds of infections, providing one of the best diaper rash treatments available!

wash your hands diaper rash treatment

How to treat diaper rash

Even if you’ve taken the proper steps to preventing diaper rash, your baby will probably still encounter it at least once or twice in his life. Fortunately, there are numerous effective and safe ways on how to treat diaper rash!

Kick things into high gear

First, if you’re not already following the prevention methods outlined above, now is the time to begin. Change your baby’s diaper much more often than normal (some diapers change color when your baby has urinated; these might be especially helpful now), and use only the necessary number of wipes to clean him. Let her air dry as much as possible--you might even leave her diaper off for as much as several hours. If she’s especially irritated, a bath with very mild soap might be a better solution than wipes.

Change things up

You might also consider changing brands of diapers or wipes at this time; some are specifically marketed for children with sensitive skin. If you’re using cloth diapers, you might need to change your laundry detergent, and you’ll also want to avoid using plastic liners.

Avoid problem foods

It’s common for foods like citrus or tomatoes to cause your children to develop further irritation, so any foods that cause your child digestive issues should be carefully avoided at this time. If your child is already having issues with diarrhea, for example, in between diaper changes and airing out you might use a nappy rash cream as a sort of mantle to create a barrier between your baby’s skin and the irritants.

Diaper rash creams with extra strength zinc oxide or titanium can be especially helpful. Make sure, however, that you don’t use baby powder as it can be inhaled by infants and children.

Over-the-counter help

Diaper rash creams are usually very effective on their own, but if you suspect a yeast infection, there are many great topical antifungal creams that are available over-the-counter, while topical steroids are available for other causes--but should not be used for fungal infections. If you’re in doubt, consult with your doctor!

When to contact the doctor

Hospital care is very rarely necessary for diaper rash, but there are times when it’s important to contact your doctor. If, for example, you’ve followed the prescriptions outlined above and have not seen improvement after more than four days (or more than two days for a very young baby), you should contact your child’s pediatrician. In addition, if the rash starts to spread or gets worse, or has a pus-like drainage or yellow crusting, or you just aren’t sure what is causing the rash, your doctor will need to be called in.

You might also find your child’s pediatrician extremely helpful in the case of food allergies or skin sensitivities; he or she can better help you pinpoint and then treat the exact culprits. If your child seems to be in severe pain because of the rash, or the rash is accompanied by a fever, you should seek medical attention.

Rashes can be irritating and uncomfortable for your little one, but with the right diaper rash treatment, she’ll be on her way to a happy, healthy day in no time!

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