How to Treat Diaper Rash

Diaper rash is almost like a rite of passage for newborns, infants, and babies. It’s so common that it’s extremely rare for your baby to never experience it. Diaper rash is a condition that causes soreness, redness, tenderness, and a variety of other symptoms. It’s characterized by inflamed skin and is more common in areas that are both warm and moist—like the areas protected by diapers. While this condition is common, it doesn’t make seeing your baby in discomfort any easier. To help your baby feel their best, here’s how to treat diaper rash.

Different Types of Diaper Rash

The term diaper rash is used to describe any kind of rash that presents itself in the diaper region. However, there are actually different types of diaper rashes to be aware of. Certain types may require unique treatment approaches, so if you’re ever in doubt schedule a visit with your pediatrician.

  • Chafing – this is the most common type of diaper rash that affects babies. It’s often characterized by small spots or bumps and appears frequently in high-friction areas.
  • Yeast Infections – also known as candida dermatitis, yeast infections appear bright-red and very tender. They can occur due to progression of another type of diaper rash and will spread if not treated.
  • Cradle Cap – this type of rash is common in newborns and appears deep red with yellow scales. While it’s usually seen on a baby’s head, it can travel down to the diaper region.
  • Eczema – eczema is a skin condition that leads to dry, scaly red patches that are often extremely itchy and uncomfortable.
  • Impetigo – this type of rash is actually a bacterial infection and should be examined and treated by your baby’s pediatrician. Impetigo presents itself with large blisters that can crust, weep, or ooze.
  • Intertrigo – this type of diaper rash should also be treated by a professional. It creates a red area of the skin that often oozes fluid varying from white to yellow.

    What Causes Diaper Rash?

    Most diaper rashes are a result of chafing. While chafing on its own doesn’t always lead to problems, when mixed with your baby’s feces and urine it becomes more irritating. The more friction and wetness, the worse the baby rash will be. In addition to irritation, infection and allergies can also lead to diaper rash. Infections are more serious and require medical intervention to be properly treated. Due to the high levels of bacteria that can be present in diapers, infections are fairly common. Your baby may also be allergic to a certain type of diaper brand, ointment or lotion, or even food. If you suspect allergies are the culprit for your baby’s diaper rash then you may want to consider switching brands or trying an elimination diet.

    Preventing Diaper Rash

    In an effort to avoid unnecessary rash outbreaks, it’s a good idea to make the following preventative measures a regular part of your routine.

  • Change Your Baby’s Diaper Often – always change your baby’s diaper as soon as you notice it’s been soiled. This reduces the likelihood of irritation, rashes, and infection. It also ensures that your baby is comfortable and happy throughout the day.
  • Go Diaper-Free – whenever possible, let your baby roam around in their birthday suit. Going diaper-free allows for more breathability, which is much needed after ongoing diaper restrictions.
  • Avoid Unnecessary Tightness – your baby’s diaper should be tight enough to hold the contents inside, but not too tight that it’s cutting off their circulation. Your baby’s diaper should have a little room to breathe.
  • Ditch the Irritants – using products with ingredients that are irritating to the skin is a recipe for disaster. Baby skin is sensitive and is easily disrupted by harsh alcohols and perfumes. Use natural, unscented products or just stick with water.
  • Find the Right Diaper Brand – every brand of diaper is made differently. Super absorbent options may trap moisture, but they’re often more irritating. Cloth diapers require more changes, but don’t always result in fewer rashes. Experiment with different options to see what works best with your baby’s skin.

How to Treat Diaper Rash

Seeing your baby in discomfort is difficult for any parent to endure. To treat diaper rash fast and efficiently, there are a few things that you need to do. The most important thing to remember is that keeping your baby’s skin dry will help to reduce any further irritation and limit the spread of the rash. With that being said, here are the best ways to treat diaper rash.

Keep Skin Clean and Dry

Changing your baby’s dirty diapers is essential in preventing diaper rash, but it’s even more important when trying to treat it. At the first sign of wetness, change the diaper. This helps to reduce any moisture on the skin which can further inflame a rash. To make sure that the rash is treated quickly, you may need to periodically check throughout the night to see if your baby needs a diaper change.

During changing, make sure to gently clean the area and allow the skin to completely dry. Then, depending on your treatment plan, apply your ointment or cream. Research the product before using it and aim to use something that acts as a barrier to protect the skin. Petroleum jelly and zinc oxide work well for this.

Whenever possible, let your baby go diaper-free. This allows the diaper rash to breathe and avoids adding further irritation.

If your baby is experiencing high levels of discomfort, try giving them an oatmeal bath. By using colloidal oatmeal, you can help reduce the inflammation and irritation that diaper rashes often cause. This can also work to alleviate pain and itching. Find a bath treatment targeted towards babies that uses colloidal oatmeal and always talk to your pediatrician if you have any questions or concerns.

Apply Ointment, Creams, or Lotion

Using the right ointments, creams, and lotions can help treat your baby’s diaper rash without having to get a prescription. Just make sure that you look for products with zinc oxide for the best protection. This not only soothes your baby’s skin, but it also acts as a protective covering that keeps moisture out and reduces friction against the diaper. If you decide to use an ointment or cream, use it sparingly throughout the day to give the rash time to breathe. For the best results and lower chance of irritation, choose baby-designed products. Avoid anything that has baking soda, boric acid, camphor, phenol, benzocaine, diphenhydramine, or salicylates as these can be toxic for babies.

Avoid Wipes

While some parents rely on baby wipes to keep their little ones clean and comfortable, many brands have added fragrances or alcohol. Avoid any wipes with added products as they could lead to further irritation. While treating diaper rash, it’s best to err on the side of caution and use a clean washcloth with warm water.

Consider Breast Milk

Some mothers have found that applying breast milk to the rash helps to alleviate discomfort and speed up the rate of healing. There are mixed results with this method, so if you don’t see any change then try something else. Again, results vary but considering that breast milk is always on hand, it’s worth trying. There were no adverse effects from applying breast milk in the study performed.

Try a Different Diet

Introducing new foods to your baby is exciting and fun, but it can be hard on their developing digestive systems. If you find that certain foods lead to disruptive diapers, consider eliminating that food for a while and reintroducing it later. The composition of your baby’s poos can impact the degree to which they irritate the surrounding skin.

There are plenty of approved treatments for diaper rash, there are also some things that you should avoid. Remember that for babies, less is usually more. Their sensitive skin is easily irritated and even though many adults turn to medicated creams and ointments, you should use things that are hypoallergenic and fragrance-free on babies. While baby powder was frequently used in the past, it’s been shown to be dangerous as your baby can inhale the small particles if applied incorrectly. The same is said about corn starch, which actually worsens diaper rash. If you notice any signs of blisters or swelling in the area, call your child’s pediatrician immediately. Baby rash can become infected and catching this early is essential to easing discomfort and avoiding complications. Signs of infection could include fever, redness, pus or discharge, and a rash that doesn’t respond to any treatment or efforts. Diaper rash can also develop into fungal or yeast infections, which further intensifies discomfort. If you’re unsure, call your pediatrician for a proper diagnosis.

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