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Diaper rash is an irritation of the skin. It occurs mostly in babies, and it is a common condition. In the United States, it affects up to 35 percent of children under two years old. Most children suffer from it at least once before they are toilet trained (Medscape, 2012).
Also known as diaper dermatitis, diaper rash causes uncomfortable burning and redness on areas of the skin that come into contact with and rub against a diaper.
This article focuses on common diaper rash, or diaper dermatitis, which responds to basic treatments including frequent diaper changes.
Other types of skin rashes may be agitated by wearing a diaper. These rashes include other forms of dermatitis, psoriasis, and rashes caused by conditions such as syphilis, HIV, and bullous impetigo.
Diaper rash occurs when someone sits too long in a soiled diaper. Diarrhea can exacerbate the problem. Sometimes a child will first experience diaper rash when beginning solid food or taking antibiotics. Breast-fed children can develop diarrhea from what is passed on by their mother's diet.
Babies soil diapers every three to four hours, so it's important to keep them changed. The acidic nature of human waste allows bacteria and yeast to thrive. All of these elements can irritate the skin.
Sometimes, diapers that are too tight or that don’t fit properly will cause chafing. Chemicals from detergents or other products that touch the baby's skin, including the diapers themselves, can cause irritation.
As many as one in three children develop diaper rash. Breast-fed babies are at lower risk, due to reduced acidity in their diets. All infants and toddlers who wear diapers can develop diaper rash. Usually, diaper rash does not become a problem until the age of three weeks. Risk is highest for babies between three months and one year old.
Occasionally, diaper rash is passed from infant to infant.
Diaper rash causes the skin to look red and irritated. Affected skin may also feel warm to the touch. Parents and caregivers should call a doctor if a bright red diaper rash lasts longer than 48 hours or is accompanied by a strong odor of urine, which may indicate dehydration (Cincinnati Children's Hospital, 2012).
Other times to seek medical help include when rashes form blisters or become weepy, or if the baby develops a fever (Mayo Clinic, 2012).
Diaper rash is common. Most people who care for children know it when they see it. Sometimes, it's still a good idea to call a doctor, who will offer an expert opinion based on prescriptions and other baby items.
Diaper rashes caused by yeast infections sometimes occur when an infant takes antibiotics. Those kinds of rashes will not get better without physician-prescribed ointment.
When you speak to your doctor, be prepared to discuss brands of diapers, lotions, detergents, and other household items your baby comes into contact with.
Research published in the Scientific World Journal in 2012 suggests that creams made of plant derivatives, including aloe and calendula, help fight diaper rash (Panahi, et al., 2012). In particular, calendula fights inflammation and bacteria, two of the biggest problems with diaper rash.
Topical creams and ointments are commonly used to treat diaper rash. They include:
It’s usually easy to treat occasional bouts of diaper rash with over-the-counter medications and smart practices at home. The best prevention is also the best cure: frequent diaper changes.
Diaper rash generally clears up with home remedies in a day or two. If it doesn't, call a doctor.
Diaper rash can lead to fussy, miserable babies. It is usually preventable if you follow these tips:
Written by: David Heitz
Medically reviewed on: Aug 26, 2013: George Krucik, MD, MBA
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