Diaper Rash Treatments, Home Remedies, Causes And Prevention

Learn the many causes of diaper rash, and what remedies can successfully treat it and even prevent it.

Diaper rash plagues all babies, but some more often than others. Learn more about the causes of this dreaded rash, and the many steps that can be taken to treat and prevent this irritation on your baby's skin.


Diaper rash can be caused by any number of things, but the majority of diaper rashes are caused by skin irritation. Diapers can rub against the skin, be left on for too long, or fit the baby too tightly.

Skin exposure to moisture, urine, and feces can irritate the sensitive skin of an infant. Feces can actually be even more irritating than urine, so watch out if your baby is having frequent bowel movements. Be sure to change the diapers frequently, as not changing diapers often enough can lead to diaper rash.

The friction from the material of the diaper can also rub the skin, and cause diaper rash, especially if the diapers are ill fitting. Babies need diapers that fit them well, but not too tightly.

Plastic pants that fit over cloth diapers can be a breeding ground for moisture, and this in turn can cause diaper rash. Various disposable wipes, detergents, and soaps can also irritate the baby's sensitive skin. Be careful of what soaps you use to wash cloth diapers, as well. Irritating ingredients can be found in various powders, oils, and lotions, as well. Be careful when you switch to new products; keep an eye on how they might be affecting your little one.

New foods can increase the chances of diaper rash. As the child begins to eat solid foods, their bowel movements change, and this can bring on diaper rash. Changes in the baby's diet, as well as your own (if you're breastfeeding) can also bring about diaper rashes.

Infants with sensitive skin can be prone to diaper rash, especially if they suffer from eczema or atopic dermatitis. In this case you may notice a difference, though, as the affected area will include more than just the baby's bottom.

Be careful when your baby takes antibiotics, or you as a breastfeeding mother, as they can also have an effect on baby. Though antibiotics are used with good intentions, they not only kill the bad bacteria, but also the good. A proper balance of good bacteria is necessary, or else a yeast infection can occur.

Bacterial infections and fungus can also spread to the vulnerable skin, where the warmth and moisture make it an ideal breeding ground for the bacteria to grow in the creases of skin. This kind of infection can spread to the surrounding regions, and is uncomfortable for the baby.

Treatments & Prevention

There are various ways that diaper rash can be treated. If your baby already has a diaper rash, and you're looking to treat it, here are some tips for treating the uncomfortable rash. Always keep the area dry, clean, and cool. Check the diaper frequently (not every ten minutes, but reasonably), and change it as soon as possible when you know it's soiled or wet. Next, gently and carefully clean the area thoroughly with warm water (not hot!) between each diaper change. You may use a mild soap, if you wish, but be careful to clean it all off. Sometimes using a stream of running water from a squeezable bottle to clean the area can be less irritating. The stream of water also helps to rinse urine and bowel movements without the harsh irritation that wiping and rubbing can encourage. If you're going to try this, set your baby in the sink or a tub.

Do not use wipes, lotions, or powders that contain alcohol or fragrance, as this can prolong the diaper rash. Allow your baby's bottom to dry completely before placing another diaper on. This is very important, so the diaper is dry of any excess moisture. Using a heated blow dryer is not recommended as it can cause "wind burn" on the baby's skin. Letting baby air dry naturally is always best. In an emergency you might consider the use of a blow dryer on a "low" setting, so that the air isn't as forceful and irritating to the skin, but do not use the dryer for too long. Otherwise, gently pat the area dry with a soft towel - do not scrub the skin. Use ointments containing zinc oxide (Desitin, Balmex, A & D) or petroleum jelly (Vaseline), which will help protect against moisture. Not only does it seal out moisture, but also seals out the irritants within baby's bowel movements. Do not use steroid creams unless recommended by your baby's doctor. Don't use fragranced products, as they can irritate the sensitive skin. If you don't notice an improvement, you may find it helpful to change the cleansers (soaps), wipes, or diapers, as they may be creating an allergic reaction on your baby's skin.

When fastening diapers, be careful not to attach them too tightly. Allow the area some room to breathe and let the air circulate. When dealing with a diaper rash, you may try using larger diapers, or cut the elastic bands, for a looser, more breathable fit. Plastic pants used with cloth diapers are also discouraged, as they retain moisture and heat. Whenever possible, allow baby to go without a diaper. Lay baby down on a towel to play. The exposure of the skin to the air allows the area to dry gently and naturally. Consider what happens when you keep a band-aid on for too long, and the skin underneath changes color and shrivels a bit. It's being deprived of healing air. The same happens to baby when in diapers all the time.

If you use cloth diapers, be sure to presoak them and wash them in hot water. Use a mild detergent, but stay away from bleach, dryer sheets, and fabric softeners, as the fragrances can irritate the skin. If your baby already has a diaper rash, or they occur frequently, rinse the diapers twice. If you find bleach to be necessary, then always rinse them twice. To remove the excess bleach residue, use one cup of vinegar during the first rinse.

Using talcum powder and cornstarch is discouraged nowadays, as well. Talcum powder can irritate the baby's lungs, if inhaled. If you must use it, be sure to pat it onto your clean hands, and apply it directly to the skin, rather than puffing it out from the bottle to the skin, which creates a puff of powdery air that is easily breathable by baby. Cornstarch is discouraged because it can encourage the growth of bacteria and yeast.

Home Remedies

There are some tried-and-true home remedies that can help the dreaded diaper rash. Some of these are similar to the basic treatments and prevention, and some are family "secrets."

Lay your baby on a soft blanket or towel without its diaper.

A warm water bath accompanied by the application of pure aloe vera gel, followed by gentle drying and a new diaper, can sooth the skin. Ointments and creams are thicker than lotions or liquids, and cover the skin completely, not allowing air to circulate through the skin. Creams can dry and allow more air to circulate. Since ointments are thicker, it may cause more irritation in being scrubbed off. Check with your doctor to see what would be best for your baby's skin. Always avoid products that are not designed solely with babies in mind; don't use products that are for use by adults or animals.

Turn a fan on low speed and hold your baby in front of it, so that the fan is directly hitting the area infected by the diaper rash. Do not leave the baby alone, however, because fans can take the breath from a small baby, and older babies will attempt to stick their fingers in the fan.

Instead of using talcum powder, try a mixture of half Vaseline, and half pure aloe vera gel, and lightly coat the area.

Giving cloth diapers a vinegar rinse during the last cycle can bring the pH balance of the cloth closer to that of the baby's sensitive skin. It is also recommended that they be boiled on a stove for 15 minutes, after they've been washed. This will kill more germs and remove any excess soap.

Here are some other home remedies that others swear by, but are not specifically endorsed by all medical practitioners (though some have been recommended by pediatricians):

*Note: Baby must be fresh, clean, and dry, before these are applied

* Milk of magnesia, Maalox, or other liquid antacid applied to the rash

* Vegetable oil applied to the rash

* Cod liver oil caplets, broken open and applied to rash

* Mix equal parts of liquid antacid and zinc oxide, and adding corn starch/baby powder to make a paste (it can take a lot of powder). Store in a bowl or container for future use.

* Mix zinc oxide and corn starch/baby powder as recommended above. (This is only different in that you're leaving out the antacid.)

When to Call a Doctor

* if the rash lasts longer than a few days, and you've been treating it for three days to a week with the regular tips (air, ointment, etc.)

* if it occurs in the first six weeks of baby's life

* if it becomes raw, red, and sore, or if bumps, boils, sores, pimples, pus, ulcers, crusty patches, peeling, blisters, or nodules become visible.

* if it spreads to other areas of the body (face, arms, or scalp, etc.)

* if baby loses weight, has a fever, or isn't eating well

* if it occurs in the creases of skin (this could be a yeast infection)

When all is said and done, a dry, clean, fresh baby is a happy baby.

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