Mommy Harshita Khanna writes to us about her 15 month old daughter who suffers from rashes due to the diapers she makes her wear. We reached out to our expert Moms for their valuable inputs.
Diaper rash doesn’t mark you as a negligent parent. Dealing with diaper rash is part and parcel of childcare, especially in the initial years of your child’s life. Almost every baby will develop diaper rash at some time or another. If your child’s diaper area looks irritated and red, chances are it’s diaper rash. The skin may also be a little puffy and warm when you touch it. Diaper rash can be mild – a few prickly red spots in a small area – or extensive, with tender red bumps that spread to your child’s tummy and thighs.
Diapers, whether reusable or disposable, create a hot moist environment that traps diaper contents (e.g., urine and feces) against the skin, which causes irritation and can promote infection. Almost every baby will get diaper rash at least once during the first 3 years of life, with the majority of these babies 9-12 months old. This is the time when the baby is just sitting most of the time and is also eating solid foods, which may change the acidity of the bowel movements.
Causes of Diaper Rashes
- Wetness – Even the most absorbent diaper leaves some moisture on your child’s skin, and when your child’s urine mixes with bacteria from his stool, it breaks down and forms ammonia, which can be very harsh.
- Chafing or chemical sensitivity – Your child’s diaper rash may be the result of his diaper rubbing against his skin, especially if he’s particularly sensitive to chemicals like the fragrances in a disposable diaper or the detergents used to wash a cloth diaper.
- New foods – It’s common for children to get diaper rash when they start eating solid foods or are introduced to a new food.
- Infection – The dark, damp, and moist environment created by a diaper is a perfect breeding ground for bacterial or yeast infections on the skin. These types of infections are more common in babies who have a diaper rash.
- Antibiotics – Children on antibiotics sometimes get yeast infections because these drugs reduce the number of healthy bacteria that help keep yeast in check as well as the harmful bacteria they’re meant to destroy.
- Contact with urine and feces – Prolonged exposure to urine and feces can irritate the skin. Both urine and feces can cause moisture to come into contact with the skin, which makes it more prone to damage and irritation. Contact with digestive enzymes found in feces can also increase the risk of diaper rash.
- Method of feeding – Breast-fed babies may experience fewer diaper rashes than bottle-fed babies because breast-fed babies tend to have stools of a smaller volume, which in turn are less irritating to the skin.
- Friction and rubbing – Tight-fitting diapers that chafe against the skin can lead to a diaper rash. This damage to the skin can be made worse if the skin is wet. Also, skin-to-skin contact within skin folds in the diaper area can promote a diaper rash.
- Pre – existing skin conditions – Infants and children with preexisting skin conditions such as eczema and atopic dermatitis are more prone to developing a diaper rash.
- Contact with irritating chemicals – Your baby’s bottom is very delicate. Some common chemicals that are found in fabric softeners, detergents, baby lotions, fragrances, soaps, and baby wipes can be very irritating to the skin and should be avoided.
- Allergy to diaper elastic chemicals – A linear, red rash across the belly and in the skin creases can indicate an allergic reaction to chemicals in disposable diaper elastic. This is a common occurrence when you change to a different brand of diapers.
Tips for Treating a Diaper Rash
- Keep your child clean and dry by changing his diaper frequently.
- Rinse the diaper area well at each diaper change. Don’t use wipes that contain alcohol or fragrance.
- Pat your child’s skin dry , don’t rub.
- Use an ointment that forms a protective barrier on the skin after every diaper change to help protect your child’s irritated skin from stool and urine.
- Put your child’s diaper on loosely or use a diaper that’s a little big on him to allow for better air circulation.
- When the weather is warm and your child can play outside or in a room with a floor that’s easy to clean, leave you child’s diaper off for as long as possible every day. Exposure to the air will speed healing.
- Consider letting your child sleep with a bare bottom whenever he has a rash.
- The skin should be cleaned, but avoid any rough scrubbing, which could lead to further skin irritation. After cleaning, the skin should be exposed to air, leaving the diaper off for several hours if possible.
- Certain foods may seem to worsen the rash. If this is the case, avoid these foods until the rash has cleared.
- If the rash is caused by a contact or allergic dermatitis, stop using any new soaps or detergents that may be causing the rash.
- Use plain water. When you need to get poop off, use a mild cleanser.
Next Step – Prevention
- The best defense against diaper rash is a dry bottom, so change your child’s diaper frequently or as soon as possible after it becomes wet or soiled.
- When applying the diaper, avoid tape adhering to the skin, because this can also lead to breakdown and irritate the skin.
- Clean your child’s genital area thoroughly with each diaper change.
- Pat their skin dry, never rub it. You might also try drying the diaper area after a diaper change with a hair dryer set on low.
- If your child seems prone to diaper rash, coat her bottom with a thin layer of protective ointment after each diaper change.
- Skip the talcum powder, as the dust is harmful to your child’s lungs. If you want to use powder, choose one that’s made from cornstarch. Shake the powder into your hand, away from your child, never directly on or near them and keep the container well out of their reach at all times.
- At every diaper change, carefully wash away any powder that accumulates in the folds of your child’s skin.
- When your child starts eating solid foods, introduce one item at a time. Waiting a few days between each introduction will make it easier to determine whether sensitivity to the food causes a diaper rash. If it does, you can eliminate that food for the time being.
- Don’t secure the diaper so tightly that there’s no room for air to circulate. Dress your child in loose clothing.
- Don’t wash cloth diapers with detergents that contain fragrances, and skip the fabric softener. Both can irritate your child’s skin.
- Use hot water and double rinse your child’s diapers. You might also add half a cup of vinegar to the first rinse to eliminate alkaline irritants.
- Breastfeed your child for as long as you can. Breastfeeding boosts your child’s resistance to infections in general and makes her less likely to need antibiotics, which can contribute to diaper rash.
- When your child does need to take an antibiotic, ask the doctor about giving her a probiotic as well. Probiotics encourage the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut, which may reduce your child’s chances of getting a diaper rash.
- Use diapers that draw moisture away from the skin.
- Avoid using products that expose your child’s skin to irritating chemicals
- Wash reusable diapers carefully to remove all the germs. Be sure to completely rinse out any soap or detergent.
- Wash your hands thoroughly after each diaper change.
No matter how careful you are, your little one will probably get diaper rash at some point. Most babies do. So plan ahead. Learn how to treat diaper rash, plus prevent flare-ups. Your baby’s little bottom will thank you!
We are grateful to all our SOS Moms for their valuable inputs!