Prevention and Treatment of Diaper Rash

Diaper rash normally occurs in babies around their diaper areas. It’s usually related to wearing wet or soiled diapers, sensitive skin, or even having the diaper chafe the skin. Seeing your precious little with this rash can be alarming at first, but it typically goes away with a few home remedies.

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When are babies most likely to be affected?

  • Babies 8-10 months old
  • Infants that go a long time between diaper changes
  • Any babies that are prone to loose stools or diarrhea
  • When your baby starts solids
  • Teething babies

Causes

Wet or Dirty Diapers

If you baby sits in a wet or dirty diaper for too long, the exposure can start to cause irritation. As the urine breaks down, the pH level will rise in Baby’s skin which increases irritability. Babies that poop more often or have runnier stools or diarrhea are more prone to diaper rash due to the breakdown of digestive agents in the stool. 

New Products

Babies have extremely sensitive skin so any change in diapers, wipes, laundry detergent, bath soap, baby lotion, or anything else that comes in contact can cause irritation. 

Allergic Reaction

If your baby is having an allergic reaction to a diaper, you will notice the rash right away. The rash will occur everywhere the diaper is touching their skin, including their little butt, back, and legs. You can try a different brand or switch to cloth to see if that alleviates the symptoms. 

Chafing

Diapers or clothing that is too tight can rub against their skin and cause chafing or a rash. When tight clothes are mixed with moisture it can start to rub the skin raw. 

New Foods

Starting solids or changing up your child’s diet can cause their stool to change. If your baby is breastfed, it may be in response to what mom ate but talk with your pediatrician before you go making any crazy diet changes. If it’s food related, you will most likely notice the rash right around their bum hole. 

Teething

Teething causes an excess of saliva to be produced. When this saliva is swallowed, it causes runny stool or diarrhea. 

Sensitive Skin

Some babies are born with certain skin conditions like eczema or atopic dermatitis. This can make them more prone to diaper rashes, but you will most likely notice skin irritations in places other than their diaper as well. 

Yeast/Bacterial infections

The area inside a diaper is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria since it’s warm, moist, and dark. A simple skin infection can easily spread causing a rash and red dots scattered around their creases. 

Antibiotics

Antibiotics are made to kill bacteria, unfortunately, it can’t differentiate between the good and bad. This can kill off the good bacteria meant to keep yeast growth at bay which can actually cause a yeast infection. Antibiotics can also increase the risk of rash from diarrhea. 

Symptoms

  • Pinkness or redness anywhere the diaper might touch
  • Flakiness, dryness, or peeling
  • Chafing from the diaper rubbing against their skin
  • Sensitivity 
  • Feels hot to the touch
  • Dry raised bumps
  • Puss filled bumps
  • Swelling
  • Fussiness during diaper changes

When to call or see the Pediatrician

  • It seems severe or unusual
  • Your baby cries or screams in pain when you touch the rash or affected area.
  • The rash spreads to other parts of their body
  • The rash is blistering, bleeding, itching, or oozing
  • Baby has a fever
  • It does not get better within 7 days

Prevention

Use a barrier cream. 

Layer it on like icing on a cupcake. That way when the child pees or poops, you can just wipe off the top layer and apply more. You don’t have to actually scrub it off their bottom after every use, because this can actually make it more irritated. You can use products like coconut oil, olive oil, creams with zinc oxide, or vaseline. Vaseline or coconut oil are especially great with newborns to easily wipe the meconium off. 

Change diaper often

Change your baby’s diaper as often as you can, and preferably soon after they go to the bathroom so they aren’t sitting in a wet or soiled diaper. 

Use warm water during changes

You can either rinse your baby’s bum off in the sink or bath, or you can use washcloths or wipes. Try to avoid any wipe with alcohol or scented wipes as these contain chemicals that can make the rash worse. Especially early in life, babies just need water to clean them off between changes. 

Pat dry

Use a gentle cloth or baby towel to pat them dry after diaper changes, especially before applying a barrier cream. Make sure not to rub or scrub as this can make it worse. 

Air Dry

When it’s possible, leave the diaper off for a little while so your baby’s skin can have a chance to air dry and heal. This is a perfect time to have play time on a big towel or blanket to catch a mess if one occurs. If you have a baby boy, you might want to do some tummy time so they don’t end up peeing all over you or the floor.  

Make sure the diaper isn’t too tight

Too tight of diapers can not only cause chafing, but it can also prevent airflow. This creates a very warm, dark, and moist environment which can lead to bacteria growth. You don’t want them so loose that your child leaks out of them, but try to make sure they aren’t skin tight. 

Wash your hands

Clean up after each diaper change to prevent the spread of bacteria or yeast. 

Treatment

If the above remedies don’t work for prevention, there are a few options for treating the rash. For irritant rashes (the most common type), you should stick with a cream containing zinc oxide. You can lather the paste on like icing and then just remove the top layer during diaper changes. At the end of the night you can give your baby a warm bath to help get all of the paste off. If the diaper is absorbing the paste, you can coat with petroleum jelly to seal everything in. 

For a list of common skin care ingredients found in diaper rash creams and their purpose, check out this table by Medscape

Natural Remedies

If you want to go a more natural route, you can try bathing your child in a milk bath using your breastmilk or just poor a little milk onto the affected area and let it air dry. Many moms swear by this approach, even stating it works better than the creams! If the rash is caused by a yeast infection, you should avoid breast milk because the yeast likes to feed off sugars. 

Yeast Infections

If your child has a yeast infection (the rash looks shiny with red spots and might smell a little potatoey) you can try using sugar-free yogurt. Talk with your doctor first, of course, to make sure they don’t recommend anything stronger. The yogurt contains probiotics which is a live bacteria that can help fight off the bad bacteria! Just smear the yogurt directly on your child. 

What other Moms are saying:

I conducted a poll on Twitter asking for parent’s favorite diaper rash creams. Unfortunately, Twitter only allows you to choose 4 options so I randomly selected 4 of the most common remedies. Many parents commented afterwards with their favorite options outside the 4 that I listed. Here were the results:

Destin: 219 votes (42%)

Boudreaux Butt Paste: 182 votes (35%)

Breastmilk: 78 votes (15%)

Coconut Oil: 42 votes (8%)

The top two manual entries were Aquaphor and Baby Vaseline which were commonly used in combination with other rash creams. 

I have also compiled a list of all the other creams that received 2 or more individual recommendations by parents. The list would be far too long if I included every single one of the recommendations, but you can view the whole twitter poll here if you want to scroll through yourself. I have not tried all of these ointments so I cannot personally attest to how well they work, but I did feel comfortable listing anything that was mentioned multiple times!

[Note: Anything blue and underlined will take you to that product on Amazon. I am an Amazon Affiliate so I do get a small portion of anything you purchase through that link, at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support!]

In Conclusion

Diaper rash can be so heartbreaking as parents! Hopefully these tips help you avoid or treat anything that comes your way. Comment below with your recommendations or experiences with diaper rash!

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REFERENCES

HealthyChildren.org “Diaper Rash”: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/diapers-clothing/Pages/Diaper-Rash.aspx
Mayo Clinic “Diaper Rash – Symptoms and Causes”: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diaper-rash/symptoms-causes/syc-20371636
Mayo Clinic “Diaper Rash – Diagnosis and Treatment”: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diaper-rash/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20371641 
Medscape “Diaper Rash Treatment & Management”: https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/801222-treatment#d9