A diaper rash develops when your baby’s skin is irritated. Irritation can be caused by:
- Leaving dirty diapers on for too long
- Too much moisture next to the skin
- Diapers or plastic pants that are too tight
- Allergic reaction to diaper material or detergent
- Yeast or bacterial infection
- Rubbing or chafing of the skin
The main symptoms of diaper rash are bumps, redness, and scaly patches on the skin under the diaper. There may also be blister-like spots or sores on the skin. Your baby may also be more fussy and irritable when the diaper is changed.
If the rash is not cared for, then it can become infected. It can become bright red with red bumps and blisters.
Symptoms of an infected rash may include:
- Open sores, boils, or pus
- Your baby is not sleeping or eating normally
- Your baby develops a fever
- The rash becomes worse or does not improve in 2 or 3 days
Contact your doctor if your child has signs of an infected rash.
Diaper rashes usually clear up in 3-4 days with the following treatment:
- Change diapers frequently.
- Use water and a clean washcloth or baby wipes to rinse your baby’s skin. Do not rub.
- Pat dry gently. Rubbing can irritate the rash.
- Apply a thick layer of protective ointment to the diaper area. Examples include petroleum jelly, bag balm, or zinc oxide ointment.
- Expose your baby’s skin to the air as much as possible. Keep baby diaper free for a short time.
- Do not use creams that have boric acid, camphor, phenol, methyl salicylate, or a compound of benzoin tincture.
- Do not use talcum or cornstarch powders.
If the rash is severe, see your child's doctor. The doctor may suggest using a mild hydrocortisone cream to calm the skin if it is irritated. If the rash is yeast-related, then the doctor may recommend a medicated cream. Antibiotic ointments may be used for mild bacterial infections. These creams are available without prescription, but your pediatrician may want to discuss these options before starting treatment.
Severe infections may require oral antibiotics.
To help reduce your child's chance of diaper rash:
- Change your baby’s diaper frequently.
- Use water and a clean washcloth or baby wipes to rinse your baby’s skin.
- Dry the diaper area well after changing. Let the area air out.
- Allow your baby to go without a diaper when possible.
- Avoid using fabric softeners on cloth diapers.
- Use cloth diapers or super-absorbent disposable diapers to prevent irritation.
- Talk to your baby's doctor about giving your baby probiotics when your baby is taking antibiotics.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
Edits to original content made by Denver Health.
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Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians http://www.familydoctor.org
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics http://www.healthychildren.org
About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children http://www.aboutkidshealth.ca
Caring for Kids—Canadian Paediatric Society http://www.caringforkids.cps.ca
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