In every baby’s life, diaper rash, also known as diaper dermatitis, is virtually guaranteed. Studies have shown that there is a one in four likelihood that a baby will develop a fairly serious rash at some point. Due to the highly sensitive nature of a baby’s bottom, along with aggravating urine and stools and the chafing of a diaper, rashes are unavoidable. Not only is this condition common, but it's normal and is usually not a cause for concern.
While many people debate that children who wear cloth diapers have fewer cases of diaper rash, due to the natural fibers and better circulation of air, proponents of disposable diapers disagree. Modern science has developed materials used in disposables that draw moisture into the diaper and away from the child’s skin. Others argue that babies who are breastfed suffer fewer rashes. Regardless of who is right, the statistics are staggering: over a three year period in the U.S., one study counted 8.2 million diagnoses of diaper dermatitis.
For parents, prevention of diaper rash is important. Frequent diaper changing, especially for newborns who eat more frequently, is key. For newborns, it is safe to change the diaper every two hours. Poop diapers should be changed immediately — the contact of the stool on the bottom is particularly aggravating to a baby’s skin. Many parents try out several different brands of diapers before finding one that fits well and doesn’t cause a rash. When changing the baby’s diaper, clean the bottom well using unscented wipes or a washcloth soaked in warm water.
If your baby exhibits a simple contact diaper rash, with a mildly red and irritated bottom, there are two main types of diaper cream that can be purchased in any health care store. Diaper creams soothe an irritated bottom, while providing a protective barrier between aggravating moisture and the baby’s skin. A white petroleum based cream, such as A&D Ointment, is good for every day diapering. This type of cream is not particularly thick or messy. White zinc oxide based creams are better for more moderate rashes, because they are thicker and more moisture resistant.
In addition to diaper cream, it also helps to rinse the baby’s bottom in the bath or sink using a sprayer, forgoing painful wiping. Blot the baby’s bottom dry and allow it to air out. Because drying out a diaper rash is imperative, many parents put their baby on a waterproof pad for a while before re-diapering.
For more serious cases, you may want to try Acid Mantle, a popular brand of diaper cream. Butt Paste and Triple Paste combine several ingredients for a stronger cream. If you can’t find these creams in your drugstore, ask your pharmacist to mix one up or order one for you.
If you suspect that your child has a more than a simple contact diaper rash, there are several different types your doctor may diagnose:
- Yeast Infection: A yeast rash occurs when a diaper rash has already caused irritation and the yeast that normally lives in the intestines infects the area. With this type of rash, doctors usually prescribe an anti-fungal cream containing Clotrimazole.
- Intertrigo: This occurs in the folds of a baby’s skin, causing a burned-red appearing rash. It is usually treated with a white petroleum ointment.
- Impetigo: Blisters and raised areas of rash that weep a honey-colored fluid are symptoms of this bacterial infection. In addition to the traditional treatment of contact diaper rash, an antibiotic ointment is also prescribed.
- Allergy Ring: Certain foods can cause the stool and urine to become more acidic, causing a red ring around the baby’s anus. Treatment involves limiting the offending foods and regular treatment of the rash.
- Seborrhea: This is caused by an inflammatory condition and is usually treated with an over the counter hydrocortisone 1% cream to reduce the inflammation. A doctor may prescribe a stronger cream if necessary.