Diaper rash is the most common kind of skin inflammation (dermatitis) that infants face. Every baby has it at one time or another. But fortunately, it is rarely a serious condition and can easily be treated at home. Do not get worried if your baby develops diaper rash but do not treat it lightly either. Take immediate measures for its treatment.
How would I know my baby has diaper rash?
Diaper rash mostly appears in the diaper area. Your baby has diaper rash if he has mild redness and scaling on or around his buttocks, thighs and genitals. In a more severe case of rash pimples, blisters and sores can also form. If the rash gets infected the skin might become bright red and swollen. If it is still left untreated, the rash might start to spread even beyond the diaper area. If your baby’s skin looks like any of these, he has diaper rash.
Another symptom of diaper rash is that part of the diaper area affected by the rash gets slightly warmer. The baby also becomes very uncomfortable, especially during diaper changes. He also cries and makes a lot of fuss while the diaper area is being washed or touched.
What causes diaper rash?
There are several causes of diaper rash as the diaper area is the most suitable damp and dark area for rash to develop. The causes of the rash vary which is why sometimes its treatment fails. The major causes of diaper rash are as follows:
- Irritation: The most common cause of diaper rash is simple skin irritation. The baby’s skin is much more sensitive than an adult’s and is very prone to irritation. This irritation can be caused by the rubbing of the diaper against his skin if it is fit too tightly. It can also be caused if the baby is left in a wet pamper for too long. The prolonged exposure to ammonia and moisture can cause irritation and make the skin look red. A baby is more prone to diaper rash if he has frequent bowel movements as stool is more irritating than urine. You can know that your baby has a simple case of irritation if the diaper area is red but the folds of skin, a more protected part, are not red.
- Other than this, irritation can also be caused by any new product that you introduce to your baby. Sometimes some new brand of wipes or diapers does not suit his skin. At other times it could also be a new soap, detergent or bleach that you use to wash his cloth diapers. Diaper rash can also be caused by some ingredients in baby powders, lotions and oils.
- Changes in Diet: Sometimes babies can also develop diaper rash when solids are introduced in their diet. Solids can change the constituents of the stool or lead to more frequent bowel movements, both eventually causing diaper rash. If a baby is breast-fed his diaper rash could also be a response to something in the mother’s diet.
- Use of Antibiotics: Sometimes when antibiotics are used to kill bacteria causing diaper rash a balance is not maintained. This imbalance can worsen the rash. If a child is breast-fed, the mother’s use of antibiotics can also cause him diaper rash.
- Bacterial or Yeast Infection: A mild diaper rash can grow and spread to areas outside the diaper too. The damp and moist area of the diaper is most suitable for the growth of germs, bacteria and yeast. Once the rash gets infected by yeast it becomes bright red and pimply. A bacterial or yeast infection can be differentiated from a mild irritation rash as it is present even in the folds of the baby’s skin where irritation rash is not.
- Plastic Pants: Rash can also be caused by plastic pants that tightly fit over diapers. These pants raise the heat and moisture level in the diaper area, making it a more suitable place for diaper rash to start and germs to grow.
How do I control and prevent diaper rash?
The most important factor in aiding the healing of diaper rash is to keep your baby’s diaper area clean, cool and dry. Practice the following healing and preventive measures to reduce the chance of your baby developing rash.
- Change Diapers Promptly: Keep checking your baby’s diaper frequently and change it as soon as it gets wet so that his skin is not exposed to the moisture and ammonia for a long time.
- Clean the Diaper Area: Whenever you change his diaper make sure to clean the diaper area well. Use plain, not hot water, with or without a mild perfume-free soap. Do not use wipes that contain alcohol or fragrance and make sure the baby’s diaper are is completely dry before putting on a new diaper. Do not scrub his bottom with a towel. Scrubbing can irritate the skin. Pat him dry or leave to air-dry.
- Air-time: Giving your baby some diaper-free time always helps with rash. The most appropriate time, when there is least chance of messy incidents, is right after his bowel movement. You can also lay him on a big towel and engage in playing with him while he is bare-bottomed.
- Avoiding Plastic: Rash can also be caused by over tightening the diaper. Keep it a little loose so that the diaper area can breathe. You can also use a larger sized diaper for this purpose. Avoid using diapers with plastic edges or plastic pants that fit over diapers as they trap in the heat and moisture.
- Washing Cloth Diapers Thoroughly: If you are using cloth diapers, washing them thoroughly and keeping them clean is very important. Soak heavily soiled cloth diapers before washing them and use hot water to wash them. Use a mild detergent and skip fabric softeners as they may contain fragrances that could irritate your baby’s skin. Double rinse your baby’s diapers if he already has a diaper rash or is prone to developing diaper rash. You can also put half a cup of vinegar in the rinse cycle to get rid of alkaline irritants.
- Creams & Ointments: Use creams with zinc-oxide and petroleum at every diaper change to keep the moisture from reaching your baby’s skin. Some steroid creams can also be used but never apply them without consultation with a doctor.
- Wash Your Hands Thoroughly: After changing your baby’s diaper, wash your hands thoroughly every time to avoid the spreading of bacteria to other parts of the baby’s body or to your other children.
- Avoid Cornstarch or Talcum-powder: Both these products are not recommended for diaper rash. Talcum powder can get into the baby’s lungs and cornstarch makes a yeast infected rash worse.
When do I call the doctor?
Diaper rash is usually not a serious condition and it can be treated by following the simple home remedies suggested above. However, sometimes the diaper rash gets worse or persists for longer and you need to consult with a doctor. If your baby has the following symptoms, he needs professional medical attention. Do not delay taking him to see your pediatrician.
- The rash has appeared on the baby’s skin in the first six weeks.
- The rash seems to be infected.
- Pimples and small ulcers are formed.
- The baby is suffering from fever.
- The baby isn’t eating as he usually does or appears to be losing weight.
- The rash spreads to areas outside the diaper, such as arms, face or scalp.
- The rash persists for more than one week even though you have tried the home remedies listed above.
Cloth diapers or disposable diapers?
Parents often have this question, whether they should use cloth or disposable diapers. As far as diaper rash is concerned, there is no convincing evidence in favor of either. Some doctors suggest that cloth diapers are better as they do not hold too much moisture and allow more air to pass. Some suggest that disposable diapers are better as they are more absorbent and keep the baby’s skin drier. So it is a parent’s call which kind to use. If you use disposable diapers make sure to check if that brand suits your baby. Change and try another if a certain brand doesn’t seem to work out. If you use cloth diapers make sure to wash and clean them thoroughly as suggested earlier.
In both cases, the most important thing is that you check your baby’s diaper frequently and change it as soon as it gets wet and keep the baby’s bottom as clean and as dry as possible.