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Diaper dermatitis can be a frustrating condition for babies and their parents.

baby having his diaper changed

Image source: Thinkstock

First, check with your pediatrician and make sure that the rash isn’t something that needs to be treated by a doctor. Babies and young children in diapers can get fungal infections due to the frequently damp and warm area inside the diaper. Bacterial skin infections are another possibility that your doctor will look for during an office visit.

If there are no infectious causes for your baby’s diaper rash, your doctor may tell you that he or she has a diaper dermatitis. Diaper dermatitis is a general term used to describe an inflamed rash in the diaper area. The generic term is usually used to describe an irritant dermatitis caused by physical, chemical or mechanical irritation.

The rash can be very uncomfortable and lead to fussy babies and battles over diaper changes because it can be painful when the inflamed area is cleaned.

What can you do to help the rash heal as quickly as possible?

Barrier ointments

A diaper ointment containing zinc oxide or white petroleum (Vaseline) helps to protect the skin from irritants. Examples include plain Vaseline, Desitin, Triple Paste and Balmex. Apply the barrier ointment or paste liberally with each diaper change (imagine icing a cupcake when you apply the ointment!) Avoid products that contain fragrance and preservatives.

Change the diaper frequently throughout the day.

Wet diapers are more irritating to the skin.

Air dry!

Give the diaper region time to air out without a diaper. In a younger baby, you can easily combine monitored air time with tummy time on a water-proof mat. The mat will absorb any accidents and baby can have some time to kick gleefully free of the bulky diaper. An older toddler will find diaper-free time to be a good learning experience for early toilet training.

How can you prevent the rash from returning?

Sometimes babies develop an irritation or allergy to the chemicals in the diapers or wipes we are using.

This can happen gradually over time, so even if it is the same diaper brand you’ve been using for 3 months, it could be the culprit if the rash isn’t healing or keeps coming back.

Diapers and wipes free of fragrances and dyes.

Try brands like Honest Co. diapers, Earth’s Best and Seventh Generation Free & Clear diapers. P&G Pampers Sensitive Wipes and Seventh Generation wipes may be helpful when you need to use wipes.

Clean sparingly.

Over zealous cleaning with soap and soap-containing wipes can cause further irritation. Use warm water and a soft cloth and pat the area dry. If the diaper area is not very dirty, it is not necessary to remove all the diaper cream with each changing. If baby is very dirty and the skin very irritated, try cleaning with a gentle squeeze bottle filled with warm water or dipping baby’s bottom in warm water to help cleanse the area without friction. Use fragrance free soaps like Dove unscented or Cetaphil body wash.

Finally, consider some foods which may trigger the rash.

Does your older baby/toddler get a rash within a day of eating tomato-based sauces? Watch out for citrus juices as well. Some children may develop a rash after eating a large amount of citrus fruits or too much juice.

If these methods aren’t working, talk to your doctor. We want your baby to be happy and healthy!

Stay well!