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Diaper rash

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 3 minutes read

Diaper rash is a very common skin infection that occurs in young children as a reaction to urine or poop. A fungal infection called candida is often involved in causing inflamed skin, leaving a very bright red notable rash around the genitals. The skin can also become hot, sore, and blister-filled. Rarely, it is caused by other skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis.

How can diaper rash be treated?

If the rash is mild, it can be managed using a barrier ointment like Bepanthen or Metanium. Apply this to your baby's skin after each diaper change. This is available from your local pharmacy. If the symptoms cause your baby discomfort, your doctor may recommend an antifungal cream or a steroid cream to reduce redness and inflammation. This is usually applied thinly to the area, twice a day for seven days. There are, in fact, six different creams to help with diaper rash.

After bathing your child, ensure that the area is clean and dry, and avoid putting diapers on while the area is damp or moist. Where possible, leave the diaper off to allow fresh air onto your baby's skin.

What can I do to prevent diaper rash from occurring?

Preventing diaper rash requires proactive steps to keep your baby's skin clean, dry, and healthy. Here are some tips to help prevent diaper rash:

Frequent Diaper Changes

Change your baby's diaper regularly, at least every 2-3 hours or as soon as it becomes wet or soiled. Prolonged exposure to urine and feces can irritate the skin and contribute to diaper rash.

Keep the Area Clean

Clean your baby's diaper area thoroughly during each change. Use mild, fragrance-free baby wipes or a soft cloth with warm water to gently cleanse the skin. Avoid harsh soaps, wipes containing alcohol, or wipes with fragrance, as these can irritate the skin.

Allow Circulation

Give your baby's skin time to air dry before putting on a fresh diaper. Letting your baby go diaper-free for short periods can help keep the skin dry and reduce moisture buildup.

Right Diapers

Opt for breathable, absorbent diapers that wick moisture away from the skin. Consider using diapers specifically designed for sensitive skin or those labelled hypoallergenic.

Apply Barrier Cream

Use a thin layer of barrier cream or ointment with each diaper change to protect your baby's skin from moisture and irritation. Look for products containing zinc oxide or petroleum jelly, which create a protective barrier against wetness and friction.

Avoid Tight-Fitting Clothes

Dress your baby in loose-fitting, breathable clothing to allow for air circulation and minimize friction against the skin. Tight clothing or diapers that are too snug can rub against the skin and exacerbate diaper rash.

Be Gentle with Cleaning

When cleaning the diaper area, avoid rubbing or scrubbing the skin vigorously, as this can further irritate delicate skin. Instead, pat the skin dry gently with a soft towel or allow it to air dry.

Change Diapers Overnight

Even if your baby sleeps through the night, it's essential to check and change their diaper if it's wet or soiled to prevent prolonged exposure to moisture and reduce the risk of diaper rash.

When should I see a doctor?

If the skin is not improving despite all these measures and inflammation is worsening, there may be a bacterial infection. Your doctor can examine the area and decide if antibiotics are needed, either in the form of a cream or an oral medication, depending on the extent of the infection.

How long does diaper rash take to heal?

With appropriate hygiene practices, diaper rash usually clears up after three days. If the rash is caused by a fungus or bacteria and is causing your child discomfort, it may take a week or two to completely heal.

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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