Dr. MJ Bazos MD,
Diaper rash affects most
babies, but it is usually not serious. This brochure explains the causes of
diaper rash, steps you can take to help prevent it, and how to treat it if it
What is diaper
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 a
rash persists or develops again after treatment, consult your
What causes diaper
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,
- Yeast infection
- Bacterial infection
- Allergic reaction to diaper
When 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 happens, a diaper
rash may develop. Further rubbing between the moist folds of the skin only makes
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
- 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 overnight
- When babies begin to eat solid foods
- When babies are taking antibiotics, or in nursing
babies whose mothers are 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
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.) Use soap only when the
stool does not come off easily.
- Do not use talcum or baby powder because they
could cause breathing problems in your infant.
- Avoid over-cleansing with wipes that can dry out
the skin. The alcohol or perfume in these products may irritate some
can I do if my baby gets diaper
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
- Pat dry; do not rub. Allow the area to air dry
- Apply 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 thick 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
- Has blisters or
- Does not go away within 48 to 72
- Gets worse
- Use creams with steroids only if your
pediatrician recommends them. They are rarely needed and may be
Which type of
diaper should I use?
There are many
different brands of diapers. Diapers are made of cloth or disposable materials.
After they get soiled, you can wash cloth diapers and use them again and you
throw away disposable diapers.
suggests that diaper rash is less common with the use of disposable diapers. In
child care settings, children who wear super-absorbent disposable diapers tend
to have lower rates of diaper rash. Regardless of which type of diaper you use,
diaper rash occurs less often and is less severe when you change diapers
If you use a cloth diaper, you can
use a stay-dry liner inside it to keep your baby
If you choose not to wash cloth
diapers yourself, you can have a diaper service clean them. If you do your own
washing, you will need to presoak heavily soiled diapers. Keep and wash soiled
diapers separate from other clothes. Use hot water and double-rinse each wash.
Do not use fabric softeners or antistatic products on the diapers because they
may cause rashes in young, sensitive skin. Whether you use cloth diapers,
disposables, or both, always change diapers as needed to keep your baby clean,
dry, and healthy.
— never leave your baby alone on the changing table or on any other
surface above the floor. Even a newborn can make a sudden turn and fall to the
Diaper rash is usually not
serious, but it can cause your child discomfort. Follow the steps in this
brochure to help prevent and treat diaper rash. Discuss any questions you have
about these steps with your pediatrician.