By Drs. Sally Robinson and Keith Bly

Diaper rash is a common problem for infants. In fact, most babies get at least one diaper rash at some point; some get them frequently. Diaper rash is an inflamed area of skin that appears in the diaper region, around the buttocks, thighs and genitals. It is red and puffy and may be slightly warmer than other areas and can cause discomfort.

There are several reasons that diaper rash may appear, including:

  • Skin contact with urine or feces
  • Sensitive skin
  • Bacterial or yeast infection
  • Introduction of new foods or drinks (citrus fruits and juices can cause rashes in children sensitive to them)
  • Chafing or rubbing of diapers against the skin
  • Antibiotic use
  • Too much moisture

Diaper rash is easily treated at home. The best way to treat and prevent it is by keeping your baby’s skin as clean as possible.

  • Check your baby’s diaper often, and change it as soon it is wet or soiled.
  • Clean your baby’s skin with warm water and pat gently with a clean, soft towel. Do not use wipes if your child has a rash.
  • Keep your baby’s diaper loose enough to allow air to reach the skin inside the diaper.
  • If using cloth diapers and washing them yourself, use very hot water and rinse several times to make sure all of the detergent is removed. Boil them for 15 minutes after washing to make sure that all the germs are killed and all of the soap is removed.
  • Use a thick layer of protective ointment or cream containing zinc oxide to protect the skin.
  • Let your baby go without a diaper for a while after diaper changes to let the skin air out.
  • Change the type of wipes, diapers or soap that you use.

If your baby develops a fever, small ulcers or large bumps in the diaper areas, loses weight or isn’t eating as well as she normally does, or if a rash does not improve after a week of treatment, consult your pediatrician. 
Dr. Sally Robinson is a pediatrician in the division of children’s special services at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. She teaches medical students about caring for children with chronic medical conditions. Dr. Keith Bly is a hospitalist and assistant professor of pediatrics at UTMB.

The Your Health column is written by health and medical experts at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. The column focuses on topical health issues that we believe are of interest to your readers. It is e-mailed every Tuesday. If you have any questions about the column, or would like to suggest topics, please contact John Koloen, media relations specialist, at (409) 772-8790 or email jskoloen@utmb.edu.