Diaper Rash or Irritant Diaper Dermatitis

Diaper Rash or Irritant Diaper Dermatitis, as the name itself indicates, is a rash, or in scientific terms, inflamed skin, which commonly occurs on a baby's bottom, especially if the diaper remains wet for a long time and is not changed regularly. If the baby has diarrhea or if plastic pants are used over the diapers, then this also gives the baby a diaper rash. Diaper Rash or Irritant Diaper Dermatitis can also occur when solid foods are introduced to the baby's diet or when breast-feeding moms take antibiotics or eat specific foods. Diaper rash is more common in babies during their first year of life.

Diaper Rash or Irritant Diaper Dermatitis

Diaper Rash or Irritant Diaper Dermatitis is not usually a serious condition, but it can be very painful for the baby and distressing for the parents. However, diaper rashes can easily be cured with home remedies and OTC soothing ointments.

Causes of Diaper Rash or Irritant Diaper Dermatitis

  • Babies have a very sensitive and fragile skin. If it is constantly exposed to urine and stool, then it can erode the baby's skin resulting in Diaper Rash or Irritant Diaper Dermatitis.
  • If your baby has frequent bowel movements or is suffering from diarrhea, then it increases the risk of having diaper rash.
  • If the mother has eaten a certain food item while she's breastfeeding, then also the baby could develop a diaper rash.
  • Introduction of solid foods changes the composition of the stool and could also increase the frequency of bowel movements, thus increasing the chances of having a diaper rash.
  • Using new or changing the brand of baby products, such as diapers, wet wipes, bleach, detergent, baby oils, lotions, powders etc. can also irritate the baby's fragile skin and cause rashes.
  • Wearing tight-fitting clothes or diapers which rub or chafe against the skin also results in a rash.
  • Diaper Rash or Irritant Diaper Dermatitis can spread into genital region, buttocks and thighs, as these areas are moist and provide a thriving environment for yeast and bacteria, so a simple diaper rash can lead to a fungal or bacterial infection.
  • Babies having skin problems, such as eczema or atopic dermatitis are more vulnerable to develop diaper rash.
  • If the baby is taking antibiotics for some reason, then these antibiotics also kill the good bacteria, which control the yeast growth and lead to diaper rash from yeast infection.
  • If the breast-feeding mothers are taking antibiotics, then their babies are more vulnerable to having a diaper rash.

Symptoms of Diaper Rash or Irritant Diaper Dermatitis

  • The skin appears red in color, is puffy to look at and tender to touch in the genitals, buttocks and thighs (diaper region).
  • The baby becomes irritable, is uncomfortable and cries a lot, especially when the diaper is changed and when the diaper area is touched or cleaned.

Severe symptoms where the diaper rash is not resolving and if the even after frequent diaper changes and using OTC ointment, then the baby needs medical attention, especially if the baby has the following symptoms:

  • Severe and worsening rash.
  • If the baby has fever.
  • There are boils or blisters present.
  • There is pus or watery discharge from the rashes.
  • The rash spreads beyond the diaper region.
  • If the baby is sleeping excessively or more than usual.

Treatment for Diaper Rash or Irritant Diaper Dermatitis

Treatment for diaper rash is very simple. The rash resolves easily with home remedies and over the counter ointments.

  • First step in treatment is to keep the baby's diaper region clean and dry.
  • Change the diapers frequently, as soon as they are wet or soiled.
  • If these don't work, then the doctor will prescribe medicines, such as hydrocortisone cream, antifungal cream (if fungal infection), topical or oral antibiotics (if bacterial infection).
  • Creams/ ointments containing steroids are not recommended, use only if the doctor prescribes them.
  • Diaper rashes take some days to heal. If the rash is still not resolving despite treatment, then it could indicate some other skin condition and you need to take your baby to a dermatologist.

Home Remedies and Prevention of Diaper Rash or Irritant Diaper Dermatitis

  • Always keep the baby's skin clean and dry, as moist environment is a good breeding ground for bacteria
  • Change your baby's diaper regularly.
  • Don't wash the rash area with harsh soaps or scented wet wipes, as they can further irritate the baby's skin and worsen the rash. Always use a mild cleanser or just plain water for cleaning your baby's bottom. You can dip a cotton ball or a soft cloth in water to clean your baby's the skin.
  • Don't cover the diapers with tight-fitting clothes or plastic covers.
  • It's important to expose the baby's skin to open air, so let the baby go without a diaper for a short amount of time, like when the baby sleeps or naps.
  • Using diapers, which are an extra size larger till the rash recedes is beneficial, as it gives the baby's skin extra room to air and heal.
  • Always pat (and not rub) dry your baby's skin with a clean cloth or towel.
  • If your baby is prone to diaper rashes, then use an ointment as a barrier every time you change the diaper to prevent rashes.
  • Always wash your hands after changing your baby's diaper to prevent the bacteria/ yeast from spreading to other regions of your baby's body.
  • Previously, it was a common practice to use talcum powder for the baby's skin to absorb the extra moisture; however, this practice is no longer recommended as talcum powder, when inhaled by the baby, can irritate the baby's lungs.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:


Last Modified On: July 15, 2015

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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