Diaper rash is something that can happen to any baby that wears a diaper. Learn how to identify it and treat it with these tips.
Any baby who wears diapers is prone to diaper rash. While it may seem fairly common, diaper rash may cause significant discomfort for your baby, making efforts at prevention and effective treatment very important.
You can easily recognize it: Your baby's bottom is red and inflamed, with swollen bumps around the diaper area. If the rash also has reddish pink bumps surrounding a red patch in the diaper area or around your baby's mouth, it may have already advanced to a yeast rash, which needs to be treated with topical antifungal medication.
Since your baby cannot tell you in words exactly what's wrong, he may express his discomfort through crying and irritability, especially at diaper-changing times, and possibly by a loss of appetite.
What Causes Diaper Rash?
Most cases of diaper rash are a result of skin irritation from moisture in the diaper area. Changes in skin pH, damage from proteins found in stool, and secondary infection with bacteria or yeast are the main culprits. Here are some other common causes.
Not Cleaning the Diaper Area Properly
Since diaper rash is caused by pH changes that occur when stool and urine combine, you'll want to gently and thoroughly clean any waste from your baby's tender skin. Use a gentle alcohol-free baby wipe or a soft baby washcloth and warm water.
Sensitive skin does best with plain water, while other bottoms may need a mild soap. Avoid scrubbing with coarse washcloths, as this will only make the rash worse and your baby more uncomfortable.
Not Changing Diapers Often Enough
Studies have shown that infants who are changed at least eight times a day have diaper rash less often. Frequent diaper changes are important for two reasons: Prolonged wetness makes the skin fragile and prone to rashes, and the more time urine and stool spend together, the longer the enzymes in the stool have to injure the baby's skin.
Super-absorbent diapers can help by pulling urine away from the baby's skin and away from the baby's stools.
Once your baby's skin has been wet for too long, it becomes susceptible to yeast rashes, the most persistent type of diaper rash. A course of antibiotics may cause diarrhea, which can set off a yeast rash.
You'll recognize this type of rash by the raised reddish pink bumps or white pus-filled bumps surrounding a red patch in the diaper area. Your baby may also have white patches in his mouth, and your breasts may become sore if you're nursing. Call your pediatrician as soon as possible for antifungal treatment if this condition persists.
Prevention and Treatment
Here's how you can prevent diaper rash from starting:
• Make sure you change your baby's diapers as soon as possible after they become wet or soiled
• Clean your baby's genital area thoroughly after each bowel movement and allow the area to dry, being careful not to rub the skin too much or too harshly
• Coat your baby's bottom with a thin layer of protective ointment or petroleum jelly
• When putting on a fresh diaper, don't secure it too tightly, but rather allow some air to circulate
• Try using extra-absorbent diapers or those treated with petrolatum in the top sheet that touches your baby's skin
• Keep a close watch on the diaper area if your child is taking antibiotics or has diarrhea
• Change her diapers frequently
Here are some tried and true methods for treating diaper rash once it exists:
• Change your baby's diapers frequently to reduce moisture on the skin
• Air out the skin by letting your baby spend a little time each day without a diaper (though you might want to have a diaper or cloth handy in case of an accident)
• After a bowel movement, clean your baby's bottom thoroughly and pat it dry before putting a diaper on
• Spread a thick layer of ointment containing zinc oxide or petroleum jelly, or one recommended by your baby's doctor, to prevent urine from reaching the irritated skin
• If all else fails, try a different brand of diapers, or a different detergent if your baby wears cloth diapers
• Consider using a disposable diaper with petrolatum in the topsheet
• Call your health care provider if the rash doesn't clear up after a few days, or if blisters or pus-filled bumps appear