The Bottom Line on Diaper Rash

diaper rash

It may be during your baby’s earliest weeks, or many months later, but you’ll likely encounter some form of diaper rash long before your baby is walking. Diaper rashes are most commonly caused by a combination of the warm and moist diaper environment, the pH of the diaper contents, and friction from the diaper, working together to irritate the skin. Diarrhea from a stomach bug or antibiotics, or highly acidic foods, may also create or worsen a diaper rash.

Learn how to prevent or treat a diaper rash, and when to call your baby’s health care provider.

Tender Pink Bum: at this early stage, areas of the skin are pink and tender appearing, and may have raised bumps or darker red creases in skin folds. When you see your baby’s bottom becoming pinker than usual, begin to change her diaper more frequently during the day and any time you know she’s had a BM. For car rides and at bedtime, apply petroleum jelly, zinc diaper cream or coconut oil to the pink areas as a skin-protective moisture barrier. Cornstarch or other powders are not recommended as a treatment or preventative measure.

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Red Diaper Rash: the bum looks raw and painful with small areas of raised bumps or swollen skin. To treat, continue with frequent diaper changes, but if you’ve been using diaper wipes, temporarily switch over to soft cloths and warm water, and gently pat the skin dry. Give baby a few minutes of naked time on a towel to air out her bottom after diaper changes when possible. Apply a thick zinc based diaper cream or diaper paste generously to affected areas, and don’t worry about cleaning off every bit of cream at each diaper change if it’s not soiled. The cream protects the skin, and scrubbing it off is irritating.

Severe rash: This darker red diaper rash may cover larger portions of the buttocks or genitals, front or back. Swelling and bumps are usually present and diaper changes are clearly painful.

Speak with your baby’s care provider if the above measures don’t seem to improve the rash within a day or two, if the diaper rash spreads and worsens quickly or if your baby’s bum or genitals also appear swollen or painful. What may have started a “regular” rash may now be a yeast diaper rash as well. Most yeast-related diaper rashes won’t improve with usual methods or zinc creams, and may require antifungal cream (either prescription or an over-the-counter version), or specialty diaper creams containing a mild steroid or antibiotic.

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