Soothing Answers to Diaper Rash Questions


diaper-rash-low-resSo many parents have been asking me for some rational tips on diaper rashes.  Let me see if I can soothe these parents with a few pointers.

Essentially all babies will get a diaper rash at some time or another.  It appears as red irritated bumps and larger confluent red areas of skin down in the diaper area. Diaper rash is not a sign of poor parenting.  It can result from irritation from stool and urine, introduction of new foods, irritation from a new product, a bacterial or yeast infection, sensitive skin, chafing and even use of antibiotics.

The good news is that diaper rashes are generally easy to treat by simply using an over-the-counter diaper ointment that will protect the skin, such as petroleum jelly or zinc oxide.  If the rash appears in the groin creases, it may mean infection as well as irritation of the skin around baby’s bottom, suggesting an antifungal prescription ointment may be needed.  Just have a chat with your infant’s health care professional, who can help with diagnosing and treating all types of rashes.

Of course the best way to deal with a diaper rash is to prevent one from occurring.

I recommend the following:

Change diapers often. In doing so, wipe the bottom with a soft cloth and rinse with warm water.  Don’t scrub, which can irritate the skin.  Avoid disposable wipes, which contain alcohol and perfumes that can irritate the skin.  Wash your hands before and after changing diapers so germs don’t spread.

Avoid tight-fitting diapers.  They do not allow air in to dry up any moisture, and they can cause chafing and irritation.   There is no proof that one type of diaper is better than another, be it cloth or disposable.

When possible, let your baby go bare-bottomed.  Place them on a large towel in the buff and allow them some time at home in their birthday suit or in a very loosely fitted super-absorbent diaper.

Use a mild detergent.  Also, avoid fabric softeners or antistatic sheets that can cause irritation and rashes on young sensitive skin.

If the rash lasts for more than two or three days, is accompanied by fever, blisters, pus, involves groin creases, or you are simply concerned, please have your baby’s doctor look at the rash. It may represent a yeast or bacterial skin infection requiring other anti-infective treatment.

Hopefully tips like these will give you the bottom line when it comes to protecting your child from the dreaded diaper rash.

Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at Vermont Children’s Hospital at Fletcher Allen Health Care and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives at