Diaper rash – a common condition affecting the skin on a baby’s bottom – is irritating for both babies and parents. At some point, every baby will get a diaper rash, but how do parents know when it’s a regular rash or something more serious?
There are three causes of diaper rash:
- A chemical or material sensitivity – the type of diaper or wipe regularly used might be agitating the baby’s skin
- Irritation to diaper contents – Urine and stools, especially when frequent like diarrhea, can irritate a baby’s skin.
Chemical or Material Sensitivity
Sometimes babies are allergic to materials in the diapers. Typically, babies are allergic to one of the three areas on the diaper: the absorbent lining, the edges of the diaper that gather at the baby’s legs, or the sticky tabs that hold the diaper together on the baby’s sides. If a baby has a fairly regular diaper rash at one of these places, it would be best to try a different type of diaper.
More common than a diaper sensitivity is a sensitivity to the wipe being used. It is best to use wipes with no scents or dyes. If a baby is displaying signs of a reaction to the wipes, parents can try a dry wipe with tap water to see if that helps. Any commercially available diaper rash cream will also help with a chemical or material sensitivity.
Contact with Diaper Contents
The most common type of diaper rash is caused by contact with urine or stools within the baby’s diaper. A rash caused by prolonged contact with urine or feces can be avoided by frequent diaper changes.
Often, a diaper rash is caused by a baby having diarrhea. Despite frequent diaper changes, acidic feces like diarrhea touching the skin can burn and scald the baby’s bottom. Diaper rash cream can help with this, especially if it contains an anti-inflammatory element in addition to the zinc oxide, which is the main ingredient in most over-the-counter diaper rash creams. Diaper cream works because it serves as a barrier between the diaper’s content and the baby’s bottom.
If the baby’s bottom is blistered, cracked or bleeding, parents should call the pediatrician. There are medications, and other treatments and tricks, that physicians can share.
Typically, if a diaper rash is an infection, it is a fungal infection caused by a yeast called candida, which loves to grow in warm, wet places. With a fungal infection, parents will notice a bright red rash with little red bumps around the edge of it. Fungal infections also avoid cracks or rolls of the skin, so if a parent is able to pull apart the baby’s skin and see no rash or redness in the cracks or rolls, it is likely a fungal infection.
The child’s pediatrician can call in an anti-fungal cream, but if parents are worried and want immediate relief, the over-the-counter Monistat cream is also safe to use. Many physicians will allow parents to describe the rash over the phone and call in the cream to the pharmacy, rather than having parents come in for an office visit.
Diaper rashes can be frustrating for children and parents, but are very common and typically not worrisome. If your child has a persistent rash, or burning, cracked skin, or is bleeding, call your pediatrician to discuss.