Ouchy Wowchy! How To Treat Diaper Rash
Ways to soothe that tiny tushy.
When your little one is upset, crying, or uncomfortable, finding a way to soothe them quickly is top priority. One thing that can make them especially fussy is diaper rash—particularly when you’re cleaning your baby during a diaper change. If you’ve been in this situation, first off, don’t blame yourself. When it comes to baby rashes, diaper rash reigns supreme. Read on to learn all about common diaper rashes, what causes diaper rash, diaper rash treatments, and how to help prevent one from occurring in the first place. But, to start, let’s make sure what you’re seeing is, indeed, diaper rash.
Is It Diaper Rash or Something Else?
Although the occasional diaper rash is a normal—albeit unpleasant—part of babyhood, it’s easy to mistake it for other skin conditions. The most common ones it gets mixed up with are yeast infections and bacterial infections. However, leave it in your pediatrician’s hands to make a proper diagnosis.
Yeast infections: Anywhere skin is warm and moist, a yeast infection can pop up, especially in folds of skin. This is because the microbiome that resides on our skin—even babies’—naturally contains yeast (Candida, a type of fungi). If this delicate balance of microorganisms that live on the skin gets disrupted, yeast is given a free pass to overgrow. The result is a swollen, red rash topped off with lesions and/or white scales. It can arise at the same time as a diaper rash (or not). And it can travel, too, creating what’s known as “satellite lesions,” which appear on your baby’s skin that aren’t covered by their diaper. If you suspect your infant has a yeast infection, call your pediatrician to discuss treatment.
Bacterial infections: Less commonly, your baby could develop a bacterial infection (impetigo), which can also appear solo or worsen an existing diaper rash. These little buggers can congregate on your infant’s fanny, lower belly, or thighs, and be made up of staph or strep bacteria. Staph creates a crusty, pimply, or oozy rash, whereas strep can make the skin around your baby’s anus bright red. It’s important not to use over-the-counter antibiotic ointments on these types of rashes, as some ingredients can further irritate your little one’s skin. Call your pediatrician for a proper diagnosis and treatment options instead.
Rare diaper rash causes: Rarely, but not unheard of, are other skin issues such as seborrheic dermatitis, which is caused by an overproduction of oil in their skin. Genetics may also be a factor, leading to thick, scaly patches of psoriasis, or a zinc-deficiency-induced baby rash such as acrodermatitis enteropathica. Your baby might also have eczema (atopic dermatitis) that creates dry, itchy, reddish-brownish patches with small, raised bumps, and thickened, scaly, or cracked skin. But only your pediatrician can make an accurate diagnosis.
Mommy Pro Tip: It’s easy to confuse diaper rash with a skin condition like eczema. However, if your child is still in diapers throughout the day, keep in mind that eczema doesn’t usually occur on their bottom until after they’re potty trained. This is because diaper rash is caused by trapped moisture, and eczema is often triggered by excessive dryness—the latter of which is less likely to occur when your little one’s fanny is diapered all day long.
What Does a Common Diaper Rash Look Like?
A regular ol’ diaper rash, the most common type, is tender-looking, red skin in any area that’s affected by your baby’s diaper: their bottom, privates, and thighs. It could be only small patches or large ones. But, if it gets bad, pimples, blisters, or other sores may develop, as well as a bright red, swollen infection. All this irritation, whether a mild diaper rash or a severe one, can make your infant uncomfortable and even cause them to fuss and cry when you change them.
Mommy Pro Tip: Cries of pain or discomfort have a distinct sound. Read about the four different types of cries to see if you can decode what your baby is trying to tell you.
What Are The Common Causes of Diaper Rash?
Your baby has a lot going on in that diaper each day, which can make them susceptible to diaper rash. Aside from the aforementioned yeast, bacteria, and rare infant skin conditions, the most common causes of diaper rash are as follows.
Irritant dermatitis: The skin under (and sometimes around) your baby’s diaper comes in contact with pee and poop a lot throughout the day, which can cause pink or red patches.
Mommy Pro Tip: Even after you’ve cleaned up your baby after a diaper change, if they’re gassy, they may be uncomfortable. Try keeping some Infants’ Mylicon Gas Relief Drops in either our dye-free or original formula in your diaper bag or a bathroom cabinet in your nursery. They get rid of excess gas by quickly breaking gas bubbles down to help your baby naturally release them. Bonus: The active ingredient, simethicone, is never absorbed into your infant’s system.
Allergy: It’s also possible that your baby is experiencing an allergic reaction to something in their diaper area. Ingredients, like fragrances or preservatives, in the actual diaper, or in wipes or creams, can be diaper rash causes. This is especially true if you recently switched to using a new product, or if the rash only shows up in the areas topicals were applied. Let your pediatrician know about the rash and, with their greenlight, give each product you’re using a two-week trial to see if you can identify and eliminate the culprit.
Does Teething Cause Diaper Rash?
You may have heard that teething can be a diaper rash cause. Although there’s no direct correlation between the two, if your baby is teething, they’re likely swallowing more saliva—and digesting it—which can, in turn, increase their chances of getting a diaper rash.
How Can You Treat Diaper Rash?
Now, onto getting your kid some relief: diaper rash treatments.
Frequent diaper changes: We know, you may feel like diaper-changing has already commandeered a large part of your day. (The average parent goes through up to eight to 12 diapers each day—almost 3,000 in your baby’s first year, and about 8,000 in their diaper-wearing years.) But the less time your little one stays in a dirty diaper, the quicker you can help clear up a diaper rash.
Cleanse gently: You’re likely already gentle with your infant when cleansing them—diaper rash just calls for a super soft touch. Avoid using baby wipes on your baby’s skin, since they can leave a residue that still contains bacteria. And, instead, use a gentle soap and warm water rinse to clean them up. (Harsher soaps can slow healing.)
Air it out: Let that tush get as much air as possible. This can be going sans diaper for naps, and instead laying them on a clean, flat, dry towel. And leaving extra breathing room when you diaper them to avoid creating swampy areas that irritate and/or invite yeast and bacteria to flourish.
Use high-absorbency diapers: Along the same lines, opt for diapers that are super absorbent to help keep that tiny tuchus dry. We’re not going to tell you exactly which diapers to buy, but keep in mind that cloth diapers tend to be less absorbent than disposable ones. So, if you prefer them, for the time being, try putting away the cloth diapers for a bit and using disposable diapers until your baby’s diaper rash clears.
Protect that doopa: Once your baby’s bottom is clean and dry, try using a thick layer of protective ointment to form a barrier between their skin and any impending pee or poop. Look for fragrance-free products that contain zinc oxide and petroleum.
Medicated creams: Store shelves are rife with diaper rash creams, both preventative and active treatments. Ask your pediatrician which one they recommend, especially if it looks like your child may have a yeast or bacterial infection.
Treat raw skin: If their skin is particularly raw and tender, you can plop them in a couple inches of warm water with two tablespoons of baking soda mixed in to help nix any discomfort. Watch them as they soak in it for 10 minutes or so three times a day. Then, gently dry them and apply diaper rash ointment. And it’s always best to ask what your pediatrician recommends.
Baby pain medicine: Definitely run this one by your pediatrician first. But, if your little one looks especially miserable, ask them if it’s OK to give your infant baby acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Just keep in mind that it’s not recommended to give your child ibuprofen if they’re under 6 months old, or any pain medications at all if they’re less than 3 months, without express permission from their doctor.
How Long Does a Diaper Rash Last?
Diaper rashes should be relatively fleeting, so it’s good to know how long is too long for diaper rash. When treated properly, it should improve in around three days. If it doesn’t, definitely contact your pediatrician, because that might be a sign that it’s an infection or something else.
When Should I Be Concerned About Diaper Rash?
In addition to a diaper rash that just won’t go away, if it starts getting any worse or spreading after you’ve been treating it for two to three days, contact your pediatrician. Ditto if you see pimples, blisters, blood, oozing, or crusty-looking sores. Same if your baby looks like they’re in a lot of pain or if they have a fever. And, keep in mind, newborns under 6 weeks old 100% need to see a doctor if they develop a diaper rash.
How Can I Prevent My Baby From Getting Diaper Rash?
As with most ailments, prevention is the secret to success. The same non-medicated tips that apply to diaper rash treatment can be applied to keeping diaper rashes at bay. So, even if your infant doesn’t have a diaper rash at the moment, tap into the world of make-believe to pretend like they do—and help prevent one from developing to begin with.
Next: Before you know it, your little one will hit major baby and toddler milestones in leaps and bounds, ultimately graduating to the potty. Know what to do—and not do—to train them to use the potty like a big kid.