Diaper rash: The raw truth
What a mess! Not only is baby soiled, she has a rash too. Diaper rash affects more than 50% of children at some stage in their infancy. Children around one year of age are most commonly afflicted.
Common causes of diaper rash:
The usual culprits are skin irritants such as:
- Dampness due to urine and feces. This is the main risk factor.
- Detergents or washing liquid that reside on the diapers.
- Textured or rough-feeling diapers that rub harshly against the skin.
- Non-breathable pants, commonly of the plastic variety that keep the dampness in.
- Excess use of soaps and powders.
Less common causes of diaper rash:
- Seborrheic dermatitis. On the scalp this is called cradle cap, but it may cause a diaper rash around the groin too. Check that baby doesn't have a rash on their scalp as well.
- Candida infection. This is a fungus that tends to favor skin folds and makes a shiny red rash. The giveaway is that it is likely to extend out further than just the diaper area. Males might get this around their foreskins. Your doctor could recommend the application of topical Nystatin with diaper changes.
- Allergic dermatitis. Often baby will get this elsewhere as well, possibly on the head and neck. Scratching can be a feature of allergic dermatitis.
What you can do to manage diaper rash:
- Prevention is the key here.
- Keep the diaper area as dry as possible, changing napkins as soon as you notice them.
- Wash the affected skin with warm water gently. Pat or air dry but don't rub it and irritate it further. An ointment such as Vaseline might be helpful if used sparingly, particularly if the diaper rash is severe.
- Let baby play without diapers on for a while. This will expose the diaper rash to fresh air. Do this often.
- Don't overuse soap as this might have been part of the cause in the first place.
- Put the plastic pants in the bottom draw for a while and stop using them. The talcum powder can go in there too.
- Some diapers are better lined than others. Disposables might help. Make sure what you chose is going to be gentle on baby's backside.
If all that fails it's time to see a doctor. If the diaper rash is looking particularly severe, it's worth checking that it isn't a bacterial infection. Secondary bacterial infections usually require antibiotics. In some instances of diaper rash your doctor may prescribe a topical preparation, or diaper rash cream or ointment, that might help. For example, mild steroid creams may be prescribed for seborrheic dermatitis, or topical Nystatin for a fungal infection.