What is Diaper Rash?
Diaper rash, also known as diaper dermatitis, is a form of skin inflammation that often occurs under the diaper area in infants and young children under the age of 2. The rash can also occur in older people that have incontinence and are required to wear adult undergarments.
In children, diaper rash often occurs in the 9-12 month age range, since that is the age when babies spend a significant amount of time sitting as well as eating solid foods, which changes the acidity level of bowel movements.
Signs and Symptoms of Diaper Rash
One of the main signs of a diaper rash is red and irritated skin in the areas where the diaper makes contact with the body. Depending on the type of rash, it may or may not occur in the folds of the skin. For example, a standard diaper rash caused by irritation or friction will often appear shiny and red, but may not appear between the folds of the skin. However, a candidal (fungal) infection usually leads to a rash with a bright and beefy red appearance between the skin folds, particularly in the crease between the thigh and body.
Causes of Diaper Rash
- Friction: The leading cause of diaper rash is when a baby's sensitive skin rubs against a wet diaper.
- Irritants: Feces, urine, or even cleaning agents can cause a diaper rash to occur since they increase pH levels.
- Diet: Acidic foods such as citrus fruits can alter the pH level in a child's stool, which can lead to a diaper rash. Formula fed babies are also more susceptible to diaper rash than breastfed babies since baby formula results in more alkaline stools.
- Yeast Infection: Candida is a fungal infection that often occurs in warm and moist areas. It can also be triggered by the use of antibiotics.
- Gastro-intestinal Infections: Babies are 3 times more likely to develop a diaper rash when there is diarrhea resulting from gastroenteritis or a stomach flu. This is due to the stool's altered pH balance, as well as the frequent watery discharge.
- Allergies: An allergic reaction to soap, laundry detergent, wet wipes, or even diapers can often result in a rash.
In most cases, diaper rash can be treated at home by keeping the affected area clean and dry, and changing diapers every 3 hours. You should also avoid using baby wipes that contain alcohol or propylene glycol while the rash is present since they can further irritate the skin. The rash should usually heal within 3 to 7 days. However, if the rash continues for more than 7 days, or if it is accompanied by fever, diarrhea, or a crusty yellow pus-like discharge, it is recommended that you contact a doctor to make sure it is not being caused by a more serious infection or allergy. For candidal related rashes, over the counter antifungal creams should be used.
One of the most effective treatments for a rash is to air dry the affected area after cleaning and removing a diaper. For babies, simply remove lie the baby chest down (with the face turned to one side) on a water-proof sheet for as long as possible under parental supervision. Try to aim for at least 20 to 30 minutes of air drying before putting on a new diaper. Drying with a blow dryer set to low is also an effective strategy after each cleaning, since towels can sometimes irritate sensitive skin.
Before applying a new diaper, it is a good idea to apply an oil-based protectant such as petroleum jelly or other diaper rash creams to help block moisture from reaching the skin.
Zinc Oxide Creams
There are a number of diaper rash ointments and creams on the market that contain zinc oxide, which has been found to be very effective at treating as well as preventing diaper dermatitis. Zinc oxide works well since it is an astringent substance which has a drying effect on the skin. A few leading products are Desitin and Balmex. For best results, apply generous amounts of zinc oxide on the affected area each time a diaper is changed.
Witch Hazel Treatment
Witch Hazel is a plant extract that has astringent properties similar to zinc oxide. Therefore, it has been found to be quite effective for the treatment of diaper rashes. Note that since witch hazel is fairly strong, it should always be diluted with an equal part of water before applying to irritated skin. Diaper wipes can also be dabbed in diluted witch hazel before each use in order to receive the benefits of this remedy. A popular over the counter diaper rash ointment called Penaten also contains witch hazel in addition to zinc oxide.
Tea Tree Oil
Tea Tree Oil is well known for its antiseptic, antiviral and antibacterial properties. Therefore, it is an excellent remedy for diaper rashes resulting from yeast infections. Create a solution of diluted tea tree oil by mixing 5 drops of tea tree oil for every 1/2 cup of water, and use it as a rinse for your baby's bottom before each diaper change. NOTE: tea tree oil should NOT be used in a concentrated form on your baby since it can severly irritate the skin.
Since the bacteria in urine release ammonia, urine is very alkaline and can irritate the skin and lead to a diaper rash. In order to neutralize it, white vinegar is an effective home remedy. If you use cloth diapers, you can add a half cup of white vinegar to the rinse water when you are washing the diapers. If you use disposable diapers, mix eight parts of water to one part of white vinegar and use the mixture as a wipe before changing.