Diaper rash is a common form of inflamed skin (dermatitis) that appears as a patchwork of bright red skin on your baby’s bottom.
Diaper rash is often related to wet or infrequently changed diapers, skin sensitivity, and chafing. It usually affects babies, though anyone who wears a diaper regularly can develop the condition.
Diaper rash can alarm parents and annoy babies. But it usually clears up with simple at-home treatments, such as air drying, more frequent diaper changes, and ointment.
Diaper rash is characterized by the following:
Diaper rash can be traced to a number of sources, including:
The best way to prevent diaper rash is to keep the diaper area clean and dry. A few simple strategies can help decrease the likelihood of diaper rash developing on your baby’s skin.
In the past, it was common to use powders, such as cornstarch or talcum powder, to protect a baby’s skin and absorb excess moisture. Doctors no longer recommend this. The inhaled powder can irritate a baby’s lungs.
Many parents wonder about what kind of diapers to use. When it comes to preventing diaper rash, there’s no compelling evidence that cloth diapers are better than disposable diapers or vice versa.
Because there’s no one best diaper, use whatever works for you and your baby. If one brand of disposable diaper irritates your baby’s skin, try another. If the laundry soap you use on cloth diapers seems to cause a diaper rash, switch products.
Whether you use cloth diapers, disposables, or both kinds, always change your baby as soon as possible after he or she wets or soils the diaper to keep the bottom as clean and dry as possible.
The best treatment for diaper rash is to keep your baby’s skin as clean and dry as possible. If your baby’s diaper rash persists despite home treatment, your doctor may prescribe:
Use creams or ointments with steroids only if your baby’s pediatrician or dermatologist recommends them — strong steroids or frequent use can lead to additional problems.
Diaper rashes usually require several days to improve, and the rash may come back repeatedly. If the rash persists despite prescription treatment, your doctor may recommend that your baby see a specialist in skin conditions (dermatologist).
After you’ve gently cleaned and dried the skin, apply a cream, paste or ointment. Certain products, such as zinc oxide and petroleum jelly, work well to protect the skin from moisture. Don’t try to scrub off this protective layer completely at the next diaper change, as that could hurt the skin more. If you do want to remove it, try using mineral oil on a cotton ball.
Ointments, pastes, or creams may be less irritating than lotions. But ointments and pastes create a barrier over the skin and don’t allow it to receive air. Creams dry on the skin and allow air through. Talk with your doctor about what type of product would be better for your child’s rash.
As a general rule, stick with products designed for babies. Avoid items containing baking soda, boric acid, camphor, phenol, benzocaine, diphenhydramine, or salicylates. These ingredients can be toxic for babies.