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Diseases and Conditions
Diaper rashFrom MayoClinic.com
Special to CNN.com
You start to change your baby's diaper, and there it is — a patchwork of bright red skin on your baby's bottom. Don't panic. What you're seeing is most likely diaper rash, a common form of inflamed skin (dermatitis).
Most infants develop a diaper rash at some time or another; some even arrive home from the hospital with a slight rash. Diaper rash may be more common after solid foods are added to your baby's diet or when your baby is taking antibiotics. Other factors that can lead to diaper rash include continuously wet or infrequently changed diapers, diarrhea and the use of plastic pants to cover a diaper. Diaper rashes can occur intermittently, anytime while your child wears diapers, but they're more common in babies during their first 15 months, especially between 8 and 10 months of age.
Diaper rash can alarm parents and annoy babies, but fortunately most cases disappear after a few days with simple home treatments.
Signs and symptoms
Diaper rash is characterized by red, puffy and perhaps slightly warmer skin in the diaper region — buttocks, thighs and genitals. You may notice your baby seems more uncomfortable than usual, especially during diaper changes. A baby with a diaper rash often fusses or cries when the diaper area is washed or touched.
Diaper rash can be traced to a number of causes, including:
When to seek medical advice
Diaper rash is usually easily treated and improves within several days after starting home treatment. If your baby's skin doesn't improve after a few days of home treatment with over-the-counter ointment and more frequent diaper changes, talk to your doctor. Sometimes, diaper rash leads to secondary infections that may require prescription medications. Have your child examined if the rash is severe, worsens despite home treatment or occurs along with any of the following:
The best treatment for diaper rash is to keep your baby's skin as clean and dry as possible. If your baby's diaper rash persists during home treatment, your doctor may prescribe an antifungal cream or possibly a mild hydrocortisone cream. Diaper rashes usually require several days to improve and can continue for weeks. If the rash persists despite prescription treatment, your doctor may recommend that your baby see a dermatologist.
Use creams with steroids only if your baby's pediatrician or dermatologist recommends them — strong steroids or frequent use can lead to additional problems.
A few simple strategies can help decrease the likelihood of diaper rash developing on your baby's skin:
Many parents worry about what kind of diapers to use. When it comes to preventing diaper rash, there's no compelling evidence that cloth diapers are better than disposable diapers or vice versa, though disposables may keep baby's skin slightly drier. Since there's no one best diaper — use whatever works best for you and your baby. If one brand of disposable diaper irritates your baby's skin, try another.
Whether you use cloth diapers, disposables or both kinds, always change your baby as soon as possible after he or she soils the diaper to keep the bottom as clean and dry as possible.
Various diaper rash medications are available without a prescription. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist for specific recommendations. Some popular over-the-counter products are A and D, Balmex and Desitin ointments. Zinc oxide is the active ingredient in many diaper rash creams. These products are usually applied in a thin layer to the irritated region several times throughout the day to soothe and protect your baby's skin.
Ointments or creams are often less irritating than lotions or liquid solutions, but ointments completely cover the skin and don't allow it to receive air. Creams dry on the skin and allow air through. Your doctor can tell you whether a cream or ointment would be better for your child's particular rash. As a general rule, stick with products designed specifically for babies.
To aid the healing of diaper rash, do what you can to increase airflow to the diaper region. These simple suggestions may help:
While your baby has a diaper rash, avoid washing the affected area with soaps and disposable, scented wipes. Alcohol and perfumes in these products can irritate your baby's skin and aggravate or prolong the rash.
In the past, it was common to use talcum powder to protect a baby's skin and absorb excess moisture. However, doctors no longer recommend this. Inhaled talcum powder can irritate a baby's lungs.
November 02, 2006