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Diaper Rash: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment and Prevention

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Diaper rash is a common form of inflamed skin (dermatitis) which appears as a patchwork of bright red skin on the bottom of your baby.

It looks like a prominent patch on the skin, mostly on the buttocks and the parts in contact with the diaper.

Diaper rash can make babies cranky as they irritate the skin. These rashes may result from prolonged use of a single wet diaper or if the child’s skin is too sensitive to the diaper’s material.

Diaper rash can be easily controlled by following some simple measures and maintaining basic hygiene.

All About Diaper Rash

Diaper rash is more frequent in babies, although they are also prevalent in the elderly and bedridden patients who completely depend on diapers. Staying for a long time on wet diapers makes the skin irritated and itchy,  resulting in discoloration and rashes.

If you choose a diaper for your baby or a patient, you need to know their skin type. Cloth diapers may suit some babies, whereas disposable ones may be suitable for some.

Parents need to recognize what exactly is causing the rash, the diaper’s material, the duration for which the diaper is in contact with the skin, or the soap with which they are washed often.

Symptoms of Diaper Rash

Diaper rash is very easily identifiable by checking the bottom of the child from time to time. The symptoms are as follows:

  • The skin in and around the buttocks, other private parts, and thighs becomes reddish with uneven patches and eruptions.
  • The areas where the  rash emerges get itchy and irritated, resulting in the child’s discomfort and crankiness.
  • The child starts crying during a diaper change or when the area with the diaper rash is touched.

When to see the Doctor?

In most cases, diaper rash is treatable at home. But there are certain instances when you need to take your child to the doctor. You must visit the doctor at once if the following things happen:

  • Even after changing diapers frequently, the rash continues to persist
  • The rash spreads to the adjacent areas and shows no signs of disappearing
  • The rash itches continuously, sometimes resulting in bleeding
  • The child feels uncomfortable while urinating or during defecation due to a burning sensation
  • The rash is prolonged and results in other conditions such as a fever

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Causes of diaper rash

  • When you let your child stay in the same diaper for a very long time, the child’s private parts remain in contact with urine or stool for long hours. This irritates the skin of the child resulting in rashes.
  • When the child has an upset stomach or diarrhea and passes stool frequently, diaper rashes may occur.
  • If the diaper is too tight and does not allow air to pass, the child is more prone to diaper rashes.
  • The child’s skin is sensitive and may react to new substances like wipes, material of the diaper, laundry soaps, detergents, or even the texture of the cloth diapers. Sometimes soaps, creams, or oils may also irritate the skin of the child.
  • When you keep your child in diapers for a very long time, the skin in the private parts remains moist, an ideal condition for bacteria and fungi to grow. A bacterial or fungal infection may worsen the diaper rash.
  • Food plays an essential role in the digestion of a child. If you have introduced a new food to your baby and it is not well digested, the baby will defecate more than usual, resulting in rashes. The mother’s diet also affects the digestion of the child who is breastfeeding.
  • Few babies have more sensitive skin than others. Babies with conditions like eczema or atopic dermatitis are more likely to develop diaper rashes.
  • Frequent use of antibiotics may destroy the good bacteria, which prevents the growth and multiplication of yeast that generally cause skin rashes.


Diaper rash can be prevented by following simple steps such as:

  • Frequently changing the diapers and keeping the baby dry
  • Cleaning the private parts of the body after every diaper change with a soft and moist cloth
  • Avoiding diapers that are scented or have chemicals in them
  • You should never rub or scrub the skin of the child as that may irritate the skin further
  • Use diapers that are loosely fitted and allows air to pass 
  • Keep your baby out of diapers for a considerable time and allow their skin to breathe. If that is not possible, at least give a considerable time gap between two diapers.
  • Apply an ointment prescribed your doctor to your baby’s skin if your baby has shown diaper rashes before
  • As a parent you must follow basic hand washing before changing the diapers of your child or touching their private parts as your dirty hands can be the source of bacteria and fungi

Risk Factors of Diaper Rash

Babies who have sensitive skin or who have allergic reactions to particular fabric, chemicals or other materials are more likely to develop diaper rashes. Babies who are kept on diapers for long hours also develop rashes more frequently than those without diapers for long.


Certain medications that help are:

  • An antifungal lotion, especially if the rash is due to a fungal infection
  • A cream containing mild steroid ( do not use steroid containing ointments  without consulting the doctor)
  • Antibiotics given either orally or topically if the doctor thinks that the rashes are due to bacterial infection
  • Ointment or cream or containing zinc oxide or petroleum jelly
  • Baby powder


Sometimes diaper rash spreads to the adjacent areas, gets worse and starts bleeding resulting in severe discomfort of the child during urination and defecation.


Diaper rash is not a critical condition. Timely measures and preventions can cure it completely. You just have to be vigilant and observe the private parts of the child during a diaper change to treat this condition effectively.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Are cloth diapers better than disposable diapers?

There is no such evidence stating a cloth diaper is better than a disposable one. What diaper will suit your child depends on his/her skin sensitivity.

How frequently should I change my baby’s diaper?

You must change your baby’s diaper as soon as he/ she has soiled the diaper. Any ordinary diaper can absorb urine 3-4 times maximum. So changing an unsoiled diaper after 3-4 hours is the best thing to do.

Can I give antibiotics to my child for a diaper rash?

You should always consult a doctor before giving any medicine to your child. For antibiotics, a doctor’s prescription is a must as the doctor is the best person to judge whether your child needs an antibiotic .

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