Diaper rash

A diaper rash is a common type of skin rash affecting babies or young children that can happen on any region of the skin covered by the diaper. Most of the time, the rash lasts for just a few days and can be treated at home.

Symptoms can include:

  • Red, painful, or itchy skin
  • Raised, peeling, or scaly areas
  • Yellow blisters filled with fluid

If there is a rash present not only on the diaper region, but on other parts of the body as well, it is likely to be an underlying skin condition or a more generalized skin infection.

Causes of diaper rash

  • Wetness – This is the most common cause of diaper rash. Prolonged exposure to urine and stool lead to irritation of the skin.
  • Perfumes or dyes that the child is allergic to on the diaper
  • Chafing from an ill-fitting diaper
  • Eating new foods – this is due to a change in the acid composition in, for example, fruits. Introducing new foods may also cause increased bowel movements.
  • Antibiotics – a child on antibiotics, or whose breastfeeding mother is on antibiotics, is more prone to yeast infections.

Clues in Identifying the Cause

  • The rash has raised patches and blisters that ooze and form a yellowish crust – this may be a bacterial infection known as impetigo.
  • The rash is concentrated mostly over the genitalia – this is likely to be a yeast infection.
  • There is a red ring around the baby’s anus – this can be due to a new variety of food.

Ways to Treat Diaper Rash Flare Ups

  • Most people are able to treat the rash at home with over the counter medications such as skin ointments containing zinc oxide.
  • Don’t wipe the sore areas, but use a water spray or bulb syringe instead when washing. The area should then be pat down gently with a soft cloth.
  • Air out the area as much as possible. Letting the child sleep without a diaper, but simply using a plastic sheet underneath, is also very helpful.
  • Change the diapers more frequently.
  • Using disposable diapers for a few days may be better than cloth diapers as disposable diapers tend to be more absorbent leaving the nappy area dry.

However, the child should be brought to a doctor if:

  • The rash is not getting any better after a few days
  • The child is having a fever and is irritable
  • The diarrhea which may be causing the diaper rash is persistent
  • The rash has blisters or pustules that look infected – this may need prescription antibiotic or antifungal creams

Talcum powder and steroid creams available in the pharmacy should be avoided as these may worsen the diaper rash.

10 Ways to Prevent Diaper Rash

  • Changing the diapers more frequently – Diapers should be changed every 2 hours in newborns, even if it is not soiled.
  • Change the diaper immediately after each bowel movement.
  • Try different brands of diapers – a different brand may have a better fit for the baby and therefore cause less friction and chafing.
  • Wipe the area well – make sure all stool and urine is wiped away at each change. Any residue left behind will be a breeding ground for bacteria.
  • When washing, use unscented alcohol-free wipes or just plain warm water with or without a mild unscented soap
  • The diaper area should be patted dry before putting on a new diaper – damp conditions breed bacteria and fungus.
  • Use a diaper barrier cream – There are 2 main types. The first contains zinc oxide that is thicker and better for babies more prone to rashes. The second type uses petroleum ointment that is less sticky and can be used with every diaper change.
  • Breastfeed as long as possible because breastfeeding has been shown to boost a child’s resistance to infection.
  • Caregivers in the child’s daycare or preschool should understand precautions in preventing diaper rash as well.
  • Introduce different types of solid foods one at a time so that any food which causes diarrhea or diaper rash is easily identified.

Important Note

A diaper rash is not a medical emergency. It is not a sign of bad parenting. Good hygiene is the cornerstone in preventing diaper rashes.