If you’re a veteran parent, you’ve probably dealt with baby diaper rash at some point or another. As a new parent, however, it can be hard to see your baby suffering a rash in such a sensitive area.
It’s a very common condition that affects many babies.
“Diaper rash develops because being in a moist diaper can cause irritation,” Luis Garcia, MD, a pediatrician at OSF HealthCare, said.
What causes diaper rash?
Diaper rash is a skin irritation that affects babies around the inner thigh, genital and bottom area. Its symptoms usually show up as red, inflamed, chapped or raw skin. It may look like large patches or sores. With severe diaper rash, your baby may experience broken or bleeding skin.
Diaper rash causes may include:
- Diapers not changed often enough
- Sensitive skin
- Chafing – when friction with their diaper causes irritation, especially in the folds of their legs and hips
- Loose stools
“Even just leaving your baby in a soiled or moist diaper for a minute too long can cause a rash,” Dr. Garcia said.
What is a yeast diaper rash?
A yeast diaper rash is slightly different because it isn’t caused by skin irritation, but rather by a yeast infection. Everyone has yeast on their skin. When a baby develops a yeast diaper rash, the naturally occurring yeast overgrows, causing the rash.
Symptoms of a yeast rash include:
- Thrush in baby’s mouth in addition to rash
- Pimple-like bumps
- Bright red skin
A yeast rash will likely need to be treated by a provider, so contact your baby’s pediatrician if you think they may have this type of rash.
How long do diaper rashes last?
As a parent, you want to help your baby’s diaper rash heal as fast as possible. A typical diaper rash lasts a few days to a week.
“It all depends on how soon we treat it,” Dr. Garcia.
Diaper rash treatment
Diaper rash is usually able to be treated without a trip to the pediatrician’s office. Start by trying any of these doctor-recommended treatments:
- Apply diaper rash cream
- Let your baby air dry in between diaper changes – diaper free means irritation free
- Change your baby’s diaper often
- If it won’t go away and your baby is clearly in pain, talk to a provider
“There are certain natural remedies that I wouldn’t recommend, like baking soda or zinc oxide. The American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) is as natural as possible, so if it’s recommended by the AAP, it’s a good idea to try. If it’s not, don’t try it,” Dr. Garcia said.
However, there are some home remedies for diaper rash that work well – like warm water. After you’ve gently cleaned their bottom after a bowel movement, use warm water to wash your baby and help soothe the area.
Common questions about diaper rash
Dr. Garcia gathered some of the most asked questions he hears from parents and gave us his expert advice.
Which cream should I use for rashes?
Diaper creams don’t actually heal the rash. However, they create a barrier between the skin and the irritant, aka the diaper.
“So, any of the over-the-counter creams should help give your baby’s skin a chance to heal without getting more irritated,” Dr. Garcia said.
Can diaper cream make a rash worse?
Some could have the potential to further irritate the rash, specifically if your baby has an allergy to a certain chemical in the cream.
How do I stop my baby’s persistent diaper rash?
If your baby’s diaper rash doesn’t go away after trying the recommended treatments, it’s time to ask your baby’s pediatrician. There may be some other culprit causing your baby to break out in a rash, like a hidden infection or allergy to something.
Can a baby get a diaper rash due to a food allergy?
It’s possible. Food allergies can cause inflammation or rashes to occur. Food allergies also can cause diarrhea, which can irritate the skin. If you think your baby may be having an allergic reaction to a food, talk to their pediatrician and eliminate the food that may be causing the reaction (or eliminate the food from your diet if you’re a breastfeeding mom).
Do cloth diapers or disposable diapers cause diaper rash?
Diaper rash can happen in babies that use cloth diapers or disposable diapers. If your baby develops a rash, you can try switching to the other type of diaper to see if that may be more agreeable for your baby’s skin. Different babies react to different things.
How do you prevent diaper rash?
The first line of defense against diaper rash is prevention.
Dr. Garcia said to first and foremost always keep the diaper area clean and dry.
“But we also have to be careful not to wipe too much,” he added.
Baby wipes can cause diaper rash for two different reasons: 1) wiping too much can cause friction and skin irritation, and 2) baby wipes may contain alcohol, which can irritate sensitive skin.
Some diaper rash hacks from Dr. Garcia include:
- Change your baby’s diaper often – every two to three hours according to Dr. Garcia
- Keep your baby’s diaper area clean using warm water and gentle baby soap
- Avoid using any products that contain alcohol – like lotions, creams, soaps or baby wipes
- Wash your hands before and after every diaper change
When to contact the doctor
If your newborn’s diaper rash is severe or doesn’t clear up within a few days to a week, contact your baby’s pediatrician. They may be able to prescribe a stronger treatment. If your baby develops a fever, contact a provider immediately.