Chemicals in the urine and stool can cause irritation to a baby's sensitive skin. These chemicals sit in the diaper against the baby's skin until the diaper is next changed. The more stools or urine a baby has, the more they can irritate his or her groin. Also, many diaper wipes contain chemicals that can irritate a baby's skin. Most of all, diapers are on babies nearly 24 hours a day - for good reason - although this makes it tough for their skin to air out and "breathe."
There are several things you can do for diaper rashes:
- Let the baby go without a diaper as much as possible. As you can imagine, this can be messy. However, if you let the baby play on a tile floor with an old sheet or towel under him, cleanup isn't too tedious. Getting air to the irritated skin helps heal the rash.
- Change diapers frequently. This prevents buildup of chemicals against the baby's skin.
- Use larger diapers than usual to help air circulate around the bottom.
- Don't use anything besides plain soap and water to clean up the baby's bottom. Diaper wipes are fine normally, but the alcohol and other chemicals can dry out the skin. Warm water on a washcloth and plain, unscented soap for diaper changes are best during this time.
- Use a barrier cream. These thick, bland creams protect the baby's skin from urine and stool chemicals. They must be applied generously all over the diaper rash after each diaper change. Look for creams that contain zinc oxide and don't contain perfumes or scents.
Occasionally, diaper rashes can be caused by yeast (fungus) infections. These are usually bright red patches all over the groin, including the skin folds, with bright red bumps around the edges of the rash. Let us know if you think your baby's rash looks like this, because treatment requires an anti-fungal cream (nystatin) in addition to the usual care.