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Diaper rash Children's Wisconsin

A pain in the tush: How to treat diaper rash

As a pediatrician, I often hear that my newest patients are suffering from diaper rash. Fear not, parents –– though it’s never fun to see your baby uncomfortable, diaper rash is common and easily treatable. Read on to learn what causes diaper rash and what you can do to treat and prevent it.

What is diaper rash and what causes it?

Simply put, diaper rash is a skin irritation. It’s most common in babies from about 3 weeks to about 1 year old but it can happen at any time a diaper is worn. It causes redness on areas of the skin that come into contact with a diaper and it can be uncomfortable for your baby.

Diaper rash has a few common causes:

  • Sitting in a soiled diaper for too long

    • Diarrhea can also make the problem worse

  • Introducing new food or products

  • Sensitive skin

  • A too-tight diaper

Change diapers often

Babies will soil diapers about every 3-4 hours. Make sure they aren’t sitting in a dirty diaper longer than necessary. When your baby has diaper rash, be vigilant about diaper changing. They may need their diaper changed more frequently.

When you change your baby’s diaper, make sure you don’t use wipes that contain fragrance or alcohol, which can dry and irritate skin. You can also cleanse the skin with water and a gentle cleanser (soap free!). Use a soft cloth to pat dry (don’t rub!) or air dry.

If you use disposable diapers, look for absorbent diapers that will keep skin drier longer. If you use cloth diapers, change diapers frequently and make sure you wash them with in mild, baby-safe detergents. Rubber pants over diapers can promote a hot, moist environment, which can irritate skin.

Lastly, don’t secure your baby’s diaper too tightly, especially overnight when your child may be wearing the diaper a little longer. When your baby’s diaper is too tight, it can cause chafing.

Coat the skin with a layer of cream or jelly

You can use pastes or jellies to soothe irritated skin and prevent urine or feces from coming into contact with your baby’s skin. The brand isn’t important but I tell parents to look for products that contain zinc oxide or petrolatum and are fragrance free.

Bath time

If the baby’s diaper area is irritated, a daily bath can help remove debris, irritants and even bacteria. Make sure to use a mild or soap-free cleanser.

Air it out

A little time without a diaper can help. Put your baby on a dry, soft towel for a few minutes.

When to call your doctor

Although diaper rash can be uncomfortable for your baby, it generally will go away within a few days. You should call your pediatrician if the rash looks infected. Symptoms of infection include:

  • Swelling

  • Blisters

  • Fever accompanying diaper rash

  • Pus or other drainage

  • Rash lasting more than a few days and not responding to treatment

  • Rash extending beyond the diaper area

If the diaper rash is severe or has developed into a fungal or yeast infection, your pediatrician may prescribe an antifungal cream or cream with steroids.

As always, check in with your pediatrician with any question about your child’s well-being.