Diaper rash: Causes and treatments

My son has a bad case of diaper rash and cries when we change him. Do you have any advice on how we should get rid of this persistent rash?


Robert Steele

Robert W. Steele, MD, is a board certified pediatrician at St. John's Regional Health Center in Springfield, MO. He graduated from medical... Read more

Diaper rash is very common in babies. Even the most diligent of parents will not be able to keep irritation of the diaper area at bay 100 percent of the time.

Diaper rash usually occurs in two stages:

  • Irritation: This is usually caused from a combination of the moisture from the skin, urine and stool.
  • Yeast: If the irritation gets bad enough (and any parent will tell you that it doesn't take much), the skin will become contaminated, usually with a yeast called candida. This is the same yeast that causes thrush.

To help control and treat diaper rash:

Reduce skin's exposure to irritants.
This is hard to do, especially in infants. Try changing the diaper more often than you are used to. Cloth diaper users tend not to have as many problems with diaper rash mainly because the cloth diapers are not as absorbant as disposables, which in turn results in more diaper changes.

Apply a liberal amount of a barrier ointment.
This will protect the skin from urine and stool, which is very helpful. I suggest using a thick zinc oxide ointment. Apply this with every diaper change when the skin appears irritated.

Watch for tell-tale signs of yeast infection.
This type of infection usually looks like a large reddened patch with much smaller "satellite" areas around it. When an infection with yeast occurs, no amount of over-the-counter diaper rash ointment will make it go away. An antifungal medication must be used to kill the yeast. In addition, a steroid cream may occasionally be prescribed. This decreases the irritation of the skin and helps with the healing of the skin. Generally, a yeast diaper rash goes away after about seven days of antifungal medication.

It is difficult for me to tell you why your son continues to have the rash. It is difficult to diagnose a rash without actually seeing it. I suggest you have your physician review the rash again.


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