Why does it occur?
If you have kids, there’s a good chance that at some point, they’ll probably have a diaper rash. Many parents try to prevent it from happening. Unfortunately, it can still happen despite your best efforts. What causes a diaper rash to happen? How is it treated? What are some prevention techniques?
Diaper rash is a very common condition among young children. It’s when their skin becomes inflamed or irritated and is caused by skin sensitivity, chafing, wet/soiled diapers and infrequently changed diapers. Babies have sensitive skin, which means it’s more likely to be bothered by urine or stool, especially if they are having frequent bowel movements because stool tends to be more irritative than urine. If their diaper is too tight, it can rub against their skin causing it to chafe. Sometimes, if you switch products, like baby wipes, brand of disposable diapers or detergent for cloth diapers, or introduce new foods, which changes the content of your baby’s stool, they can develop a diaper rash. If your baby is sick and requires antibiotics to feel better, they can end up with a diaper rash because the antibiotics get rid of all types of bacteria, including the good ones that their bodies need. The area that is covered by the diaper is usually warm and moist, making it a perfect place for bacteria or fungal infections, like yeast, to proliferate.
The most common symptom of a diaper rash is red, tender-looking skin in the area that is covered by their diaper. Sometimes, it looks like patches and, other times, it can be little red dots. Also, your child might appear uncomfortable and cry during diaper changes when the area is being touched. You should take your child to their doctor if the rash is severe or unusual, the area bleeds/oozes/itches, seems painful when your child is going to the bathroom, gets worse despite treatment or develops a fever.
Most diaper rashes can be treated at home without needing to see a doctor. The key is to keep your baby’s skin clean and dry as possible. The first step in doing this involves changing their diapers as soon as they are wet or soiled. Do this by gently cleaning the area. Once the area is dry, you can apply a cream, paste or ointment, especially those that contain zinc oxide or petroleum jelly, as a protective barrier. There are several over-the-counter options that you can use, like A+D, Balmex, Desitin, Triple Paste and Lotrimin (if they have a yeast infection). Do not use any products that contain baking soda, boric acid, camphor, phenol, benzocaine, diphenhydramine or salicylate because they can be toxic to children. The key thing to remember is to not scrub off the protective barrier with the next diaper change. In order to remove the barrier, use mineral oil because it will come off with less scrubbing, which would further injure their skin. Also, avoid airtight plastic pants or diaper covers. Make sure to use a diaper that is a size larger than usual until the rash is gone. It can be helpful to expose your child’s diaper area to air without a diaper or protective ointment on it for short periods several times a day. This helps to get rid of the moisture in order to allow the area to dry out. In addition, it’s helpful to gently bathe your baby every day using warm water with mild, fragrance-free soap.
So, if you’ve tried all of these and your baby’s diaper rash has not gone away or improved, then you should take them to the doctor. The doctor is likely to prescribe a prescription strength cream or ointment. Some of these might include a mild steroid cream (hydrocortisone), antifungal cream or antibiotic cream. Your child might need oral antibiotics as well depending on what your doctor thinks is causing the rash. It’s important to note that you shouldn’t use any steroid creams/ointments unless they have been recommended by your child’s doctor.
The best way to prevent a diaper rash is very similar to the goal of treating one by keeping the area clean and dry as possible. The best way to do this is to change diapers frequently and be gentle while wiping because scrubbing can cause tenderness. If you are using wipes, make sure they don’t have alcohol in them and are fragrance free. If you can, rinsing the area with warm water with each diaper change is helpful. With either option, it’s a good idea to gently pat the area dry or let it air dry when you can. Make sure that you aren’t overtightening diapers because this restricts airflow. Allowing your baby more time without a diaper is also beneficial. By laying a large towel on the floor, you can avoid a mess. If your child is prone to developing diaper rash, use ointment regularly, even when they don’t have a rash because this will provide a protective barrier and might prevent one. It used to be common practice to use powders, like cornstarch or talcum powder, because they were believed to absorb excess moisture. Doctors no longer recommend this because if the powder is inhaled by the baby, it can result in lung problems. After every diaper change, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly to prevent the spread of any bacteria.
There are many different kinds of diapers, so you can decide which one works best for you and your baby. If you are using disposable and they are bothering your baby’s skin, you might want to consider changing brands. If you are using cloth diapers, you need to make sure that you disinfect them really well and that there isn’t any soap residue left behind. Some tips to help do this are to pre-soak heavily soiled cloth diapers in cold water, wash in hot water with a mild detergent and bleach (it kills any germs), double rinse in cold water to remove traces of chemicals/soap and don’t use fabric softener and dryer sheets. Note: Vinegar added to the wash cycle can eliminate odors and rinse out soap residue.
It’s vital to remember that it can take several days for a diaper rash to get better and it can come back in the future despite doing everything that you can to prevent it. This isn’t a reflection on your ability to take care of your child, but just a part of the natural developmental process. If you have any questions or concerns about diaper rashes, please speak to your child’s doctor. If you would like more information, please visit the American Academy of Dermatology’s diaper rash page at https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/rashes/diaper-rash-how-to-treat