Diaper rash is found on the skin under a diaper. It is caused by several factors, including microorganisms (that can sometimes spread to other parts of the body if conditions are favorable), excessive moisture and warmth, or happen when the skin is already irritated. When conditions are right and precautions are not taken, such infections may also spread from child to child.
Diaper rash is often unavoidable. By far the most common cause is the constant wetness of the baby's tender skin, which soon becomes red and rough. This continuous contact between skin and moist diaper results in waterlogged skin and finally the rash.
The second major cause of diaper rash is ammonia formation beneath the diaper. This usually develops after the baby is six months old. Most mothers have no trouble diagnosing diaper rash triggered by ammonia - when changing the baby's diaper, a strong ammonia smell is easily detected.
To get rid of the ammonia-causing bacteria in cloth diapers, they may need to be treated with an antiseptic. Loose bowel movements or diarrhea can also irritate the skin around the anus and buttocks.
Diaper rash can also occur when a baby drinks too little. The urine may become too concentrated and acidic, which can cause skin irritation and rash. Giving the baby extra fluids will clear up this type of diaper rash.
Also a yeast, or monilial, infection can occasionally cause a rash in the diaper area. It is different from ordinary diaper rash in that it is sharply circumscribed - that is, the outline of the rashy area is clearly defined. The infected area is very red (as well as moist and, sometimes, pimpled).
What is causing the diaper rash?
Is there a yeast infection present?
What can be done to cure it?
Will a cream or ointment help?
What precautions should be taken to avoid diaper rash?
Under what circumstances is it advisable to seek professional medical help?
Some simple measures that can be taken to avoid or shorten the duration of diaper rash are:
- Reduce moisture in the diaper area - change the diaper as soon as the baby is wet.
- Applying cornstarch may help to reduce moisture, and spreading a thick layer of diaper rash ointment can protect the skin from the next flood of urine.
- Increase exposure to air. Allow the toddler to wander about the house bare-bottomed (but only in areas of the house where cleaning up an "accident" will be easy.
- Minimize exposure to irritants. Change any wet, soiled diapers immediately. Skip the wipes and use only warm water and cotton balls or soft paper towels for cleanup when changing diapers.
- Use plain soap on the toddler's bottom no more than once a day. Adding a colloidal oatmeal bath product (such as Aveeno) to the bath water may be soothing, especially for a boy with diaper rash on his penis.
- Avoid plastic pants during episodes of diaper rash.
- Check if certain foods seem to worsen the rash.
- It is important to not use topical medications that contain hydrocortisone or other steroids unless advised to do so by your doctor.
Call your pediatrician if the rash:
- does not get better in 4 to 7 days of using the above steps, or gets worse, or has spread.
- is crusting or draining.
- is accompanied by diarrhea for more than 48 hours.