You’re probably familiar with the sensitive, red areas that show up from time to time on a baby’s bottom. Most know what diaper rash (or diaper dermatitis) is, but not everyone knows what the causes are. Curious to find out how to treat diaper rash?
I didn’t have the slightest idea when my first baby was born. I tried the fanciest creams and the latest ointments, but nothing seemed to work. Little did I know there was an array of alternative solutions I was missing out on.
What Causes Diaper Rash?
A variety of factors influence the state of a baby’s delicate skin, particularly that which stays hidden beneath a diaper every day. Diaper rash can be caused by:
- Bacteria from leftover stool remains on the skin.
- Diapers that contain urine are left on the baby for too long. Pee transforms into ammonia which burns the skin.
- Irritation caused by harsh soaps.
- Yeast-based rashes can form as a secondary infection. It’s common if the baby or nursing mother is on antibiotics.
- Acidic stools caused by diarrhea.
- Cellulitis and SSSS (staph scalded skin syndrome). Both are serious skin conditions that are widespread and very painful.
- Overuse of scented baby wipes which can dry out the skin.
- More solid foods being introduced to older babies.
- Diapers that are too tight, restricting airflow.
If you cannot determine the origin of the rash, it’s better to ask your doctor. The problem could require specific steps for treatment and it’s better to get it right from the get-go. This is especially true if a baby or breastfeeding mother is on antibiotics.
What Are the Symptoms?
The good news is that most diaper rashes are self-diagnosable and easy to manage. Typical symptoms include:
- Change in disposition during diapering. Baby could act hesitant or afraid.
- Tender, red skin around thighs, buttocks and genitals.
- Flakiness or scaling of skin.
- Inflammation or puffy skin.
- Raised bumps. In extreme cases, pimples or blisters can appear.
- Skin is warm to touch.
- Baby appears fussier than usual and has trouble relaxing.
If your baby displays the following, contact your healthcare provider immediately as it could indicate an infection is present:
- Running a temperature.
- The rash is widespread.
How to Treat Diaper Rash
Knowing the exact cause of the rash is not always possible. However, there are general treatment measures for the most mundane diaper rashes.
These treatments are easily carried out at home and should clear up most cases within a few days. When treating (and preventing) this pesky problem, always remember that less is more. Read on to find out the best diaper rash solutions:
1. Change Diapers Frequently
Whisking extra moisture away is key to solving the problem. Change your baby’s diaper more frequently throughout the day. The inconvenience may leave you waking up during the night, but the quicker you can get rid of the rash, the better it is for the baby.
2. Bathe Baby Daily
To keep the area as clean as possible, give your baby a bath each day. Make sure to use an unscented, mild soap to avoid further irritating the rash.
Let the baby’s skin dry completely before dressing them directly after the bath. Gently pat down the sensitive area with a towel before applying any cream.
3. Apply Ointment
It’s one of the most apparent treatment measures. Many creams and ointments are available over-the-counter, so there’s no need to rush out for a prescription just yet.
Stick with products that are labeled as suitable for babies. Any products that contain camphor, boric acid or salicylates are toxic for young children. These ingredients can further irritate the area.
A common ingredient in baby-friendly ointments is zinc oxide (as found in most sunscreens), which is not dangerous for your little one.
Important factors to remember:
- Make sure the skin is completely clean and dry before applying.
- Use only a moderate amount.
- Avoid diaper sticking by putting petroleum jelly on top of ointment.
- Allow the area to dry before covering it.
- Follow the instructions carefully and consult your doctor if a reaction occurs.
Warning: Many parents are tempted to reach for the powder to help soothe little one’s diaper rash. Ensure that the product doesn’t contain talc as it can damage a baby’s lungs if inhaled.
Furthermore, the powder may not have that drying effect you were hoping it would. Instead, it can help trap moisture.
If you’re unsure of which product to purchase for your baby’s diaper rash, it’s always better to consult the doctor. All it takes is a phone call.
4. Herbal Remedies
Aloe vera and calendula have long been touted as helpful for curing diaper rash. Both medicinal herbs contain antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Calendula is less popular, while aloe vera is famous for soothing painful and itchy sunburns.
This specific study found that calendula had more positive therapeutic effects on the condition, but it also cited that they both were successful at improving the baseline.
Natural, safe and effective, these plants can be found in organic diaper rash products, while aloe vera is available for purchase on its own.
5. The More Airflow the Better
While your baby is healing, it’s best their buttocks and genitals get enough air circulation to help dry out the problem area. Avoid tight-fitting diapers or clothing.
If you’ve applied ointment, allow your little one to go diaper-free for a few minutes until the product has set in and can be covered. Even better, build a safe area for your baby to spend some diaper-free time in during the day.
Doctors have acknowledged limitations within their study. However, they recognize breastfeeding as a successful additional treatment for diaper rash. The vitamins and minerals found in breast milk greatly enhance a baby’s immune system.
If your baby has this itchy condition, go ahead and keep on feeding. Not only will your little one find this comforting, but it could speed up the healing process as well.
Some moms have noted that they rub their breast milk directly on the affected area, just as you would a cream or ointment.
With any remedy you choose, keep in mind that a baby’s skin will be sensitive and sometimes painful. Your little one may refuse for any creams to be applied or to sit in a warm bath.
The best thing you can do is spray some lukewarm water on the affected area. Remember to let it dry before diapering your little one again.
When to See a Doctor
If symptoms persist and you don’t see any improvement after two to three days, contact your healthcare provider.
There’s a chance your baby’s diaper rash is an allergic reaction to food or another substance in his/her environment.
What If It’s an Infection?
The rash could be infected if any of the following are present:
- Blisters in the diapered area.
- Obvious swelling.
- Discharge or pus at the site of the rash.
- Rash gets progressively worse with treatment.
If your doctor suspects an infection is present, they’ll most likely prescribe:
- Oral or topical antibiotics.
- Hydrocortisone (steroid) cream.
- Antifungal cream.
Prepare Ahead of Time
To prepare for your doctor’s visit, have a clear idea of how long the rash has persisted and what your baby’s symptoms are. Indicate your course of treatment, what helped and what didn’t.
Has there been a change in the baby’s diet or your diet if you’re breastfeeding? List your baby’s typical food intake.
What products regularly come into contact with little one’s skin? Include diaper and wipe brands, creams, laundry detergent, soaps and lotions. Be thorough because this helps your doctor rule out allergies and other sensitivities.
If your infant or yourself has been on any medication, don’t forget to list these as well. These could potentially be the cause of the diaper rash. Furthermore, your doctor’s prescriptions can interfere with the medication, which can lead to complications.
Questions to Ask
Do you typically find yourself flustered at the doctor’s office? Here are some potential questions you can ask to help support you during the visit:
- What ointment or cream do you recommend?
- What products should I avoid using?
- Is the rash a sign of an internal condition?
- What can I do to prevent rashes in the future?
- Should I avoid feeding baby certain foods or eating those while breastfeeding?
- How can I help baby’s skin recover?
Tips for Prevention
Now that you know how to tackle diaper rash, it’s time to take action on preventing it in the future.
1. Don’t Fasten Diapers Too Tight
It’s tempting, we know. The tighter it is, the less it’s likely to leak. While it may be true, it also means that your baby’s genitals and bum aren’t getting much airflow.
As we’ve learned above, moisture is one of the leading causes of diaper rash, so it’s best to give the baby a bit of breathing room down there.
2. Say “Yes” to Diaper-Free Time
Nerve-wracking? Just a bit. The best time to let your baby go free is right after they’ve urinated and pooped. It lessens the risk of an accident happening.
Your little one will be overjoyed. Going nude also gives their body time to dry out and receive some airflow to an otherwise dark and damp environment.
3. Use a Barrier Cream
When changing your baby, use a barrier cream after cleaning up to keep the skin safe from urine and stool. It’s especially the case if you notice the baby’s skin stays red during routine diaper changes. Apply a conservative amount daily and allow it to dry before diapering baby again.
It should be a gentle variety and clearly labeled as safe for babies. If you have a little girl, be careful as her genitals are more prone to infection and sensitivities than a boy’s are.
4. Stay Alcohol and Fragrance-Free
You may be tempted to buy the toughest soaps and lotions to keep your baby safe. Unfortunately, ingredients in these products can be harmful to a baby, internally and topically.
Your little one’s skin is sensitive and the “less is more” approach is your best bet. Stick with mild, unscented options to soothe your baby. It applies to laundry detergent, wipes, soaps, lotions and more.
When you’re out shopping for baby products, quickly read over the product list and if anything seems questionable, pass it by.
5. Switch Diaper Brands Now and Then
Many wouldn’t consider the actual diaper to be the issue. However, disposable diapers contain a variety of plastics, chemicals and fragrances inside. How else would they do the job they’re made to do?
For babies with sensitive skin, they could react to a material within the diaper itself. Change it up from time to time to avoid this.
So Long, Diaper Rash
This red and painful appearance on a baby’s bottom can be a cause for concern. I know I was worried the first time my little one got the rash. After learning how solvable and common it was, my fears vanished and we got through it. It wasn’t the last time, either.
Thankfully, we have many weapons up our sleeves to help your baby fight this uncomfortable situation. Remember to always give them time to air out and enjoy life diaper-free. Don’t forget to look for products that contain aloe vera or calendula for some soothing action.