By Dr. Theresa Willis
The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio Primary Care
At one time or another, your baby will get diaper rash. First, check with your pediatrician and make sure that the rash isn’t something that needs to be treated by a doctor. Babies and toddlers in diapers can get fungal infections due to the frequently damp and warm area inside the diaper. Bacterial infections and other skin conditions such as eczema are also possibilities that your doctor will look for during an office visit.
If there are no other causes for your baby’s diaper rash, your doctor may tell you that he or she has diaper dermatitis. Diaper dermatitis is a general term used to describe an inflamed rash in the diaper area. It is thought to be caused by the mixing of stool and urine that decreases the pH and prolonged contact then leads to skin breakdown.
The rash can be very uncomfortable and lead to fussy babies and battles over diaper changes because it can be painful when the inflamed area is cleaned.
What can you do to help the rash heal as quickly as possible?
- Barrier ointments
A diaper ointment containing zinc oxide or white petroleum (Vaseline) helps to protect the skin from irritants. Examples include plain Vaseline, Desitin, Triple Paste, and Balmex. Apply the barrier ointment or paste liberally with each diaper change. Imagine icing a cupcake when you apply the ointment. Avoid products that contain fragrances and preservatives
- Change the diaper frequently throughout the day
Wet diapers are more irritating to the skin. Stool and urine mixed together can damage the skin surface.
- Air dry
Give the diaper region time to air out without a diaper. In a younger baby, you can easily combine monitored air time with tummy time on a water-proof mat. The mat will absorb any accidents and baby can have some time to kick gleefully free of the bulky diaper. An older toddler will find diaper-free time to be a good learning experience for early toilet training.
How can you prevent the rash from returning?
Diapers or wipes can cause irritation or allergic reactions This can happen gradually over time, so even if it is the same diaper brand you’ve been using for three months, it could be the culprit if the rash isn’t healing or keeps coming back.
- Choose diapers and wipes free of fragrances and dyes
Try brands like Honest Co., Earth’s Best and Seventh Generation Free & Clear diapers. P&G Pampers Sensitive Wipes and Seventh Generation wipes may be helpful when you need to use wipes.
- Clean sparingly
Overzealous cleaning with soap and soap-containing wipes can cause further irritation. Use warm water and a soft cloth and pat the area dry. If the diaper area is not very dirty, it is not necessary to remove all the diaper cream with each changing. If baby is very dirty and the skin very irritated, try cleaning with a gentle squeeze bottle filled with warm water or dipping baby’s bottom in warm water to help cleanse the area without friction. Use fragrance free soaps like Dove unscented or Cetaphil body wash.
- Finally, consider some foods may trigger a rash
Does your older baby/toddler get a rash within a day of eating tomato-based sauces? Some children may develop a rash after eating a large amount of citrus fruits or too much juice.
If these methods aren’t working, talk to your doctor. We want your baby to be happy and healthy!
If you need help finding a pediatrician, please visit www.chofsa.org/findadoc to locate a doctor near you.
Dr. Theresa Willis is a board-certified pediatrician and graduate of Baylor College of Medicine. She has a background in elementary education and speech therapy. She is blessed with three young adult children and enjoys competitive powerlifting in her spare time.