Learn more about the causes, prevention and home remedies for this common condition that irritates skin under diapers.
Diaper rash is a common form of irritated skin (dermatitis) that looks like patches of inflamed skin on your baby's bottom. It's often related to wet or infrequently changed diapers, skin sensitivity, and chafing. It usually affects babies, though anyone who wears a diaper regularly can develop the condition.
Diaper rash usually clears up with simple at-home treatments, such as air drying, more-frequent diaper changes and ointment.
Signs and symptoms of diaper rash include:
If your baby's skin doesn't improve after a few days of home treatment, talk with your health care provider. You may need a prescription medication to treat diaper rash, or the rash may have another cause, such as zinc nutritional deficiency.
Take your child to your health care provider for:
Diaper rash may be caused by:
The best way to prevent diaper rash is to keep the diaper area clean and dry. A few simple strategies can help decrease the likelihood of diaper rash developing on your baby's skin.
The best treatment for diaper rash is to keep your baby's skin as clean and dry as possible. If the rash doesn't go away with home treatment, your health care provider might suggest:
A diaper rash might take several days to improve, depending on how severe it is. A rash may come back again and again. If a rash persists even with prescription products, your health care provider may recommend that your baby see a specialist in skin conditions (dermatologist).
Generally, a diaper rash can be treated successfully at home with these practices:
Apply cream, paste or ointment. After you've gently cleaned and dried the skin, apply a cream, paste or ointment. If the product you applied at the previous diaper change is clean, leave it in place and add another layer on top of it. If you do want to remove it, try using mineral oil on a cotton ball.
Products with a high percentage of zinc oxide or petroleum jelly work well to protect the skin from moisture. Various diaper rash medications are available without a prescription. Talk to your health care provider or pharmacist for specific recommendations. Some popular products include A + D, Balmex, Desitin, Triple Paste and Lotrimin (for yeast infections).
Zinc oxide is the active ingredient in many diaper rash products. Such products are usually applied to the rash throughout the day to soothe and protect babies' skin. It doesn't take much – a thin covering will do. The product can be applied over medicated creams, such as an antifungal or a steroid, when needed. You could also apply petroleum jelly on top, which helps keep the diaper from sticking to the paste, ointment or cream.
Ointments, pastes or creams may be less irritating than lotions. But ointments and pastes create a barrier over the skin and don't allow it to receive air. Creams dry on the skin and allow air through.
As a general rule, stick with products designed for babies. Avoid items containing baking soda, boric acid, camphor, phenol, benzocaine, diphenhydramine or salicylates. These ingredients can be toxic for babies.
The following alternative treatments have worked for some people:
Human breast milk. Results are mixed on whether human breast milk applied to diaper rash is better than other treatments. One study showed that applying breast milk to diaper rash is an effective and safe treatment. Infants with diaper rash were treated with either 1% hydrocortisone ointment or breast milk. The study included 141 infants. Treatment with breast milk was as effective as the ointment alone.
Another study compared human breast milk with a cream made from zinc oxide and cod liver oil. Newborns with diaper rash were treated with the cream or the breast milk. The study included 63 babies. Treatment with the cream was more effective.
Generally, diaper rash can be treated successfully at home. Make an appointment with your baby's health care provider if the rash gets worse despite several days of home treatment, is severe or occurs along with a fever.
Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment.
Below are some basic questions to ask your health care provider about diaper rash.
Your health care provider is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may reserve time to go over any points you want to talk about in-depth. Your health care provider may ask: