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Diaper Rash: Causes, Symptoms, and Remedy

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Emmanuella Ekokotu
Ekokotu Emmanuella is a sociologist and Anthropologist, writer, and fashion model who lives in Benin city, Edo state,Nigeria.

Diaper rash is one discomforting skin problem that our sweet little humans have to deal with. No Mother likes the sight of these irritations, but sometimes we get blamed for them when they show up on our baby’s bum.

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Before we go further to discuss what diaper rash is, their causes, and possible preventive measure or solutions, let us first check out some quick facts about diaper rash.

Fast facts about diaper rash

  1. Diaper rash is very common skin irritation in babies, and it is never a sign of parental neglect.
  2. Diaper rash is most often a type of contact dermatitis.
  3. Diaper rash may get a secondary infection from bacteria or yeast that are usually present on the skin. In such cases, topical antibiotic ointments are the best bet for rapid and effective therapy.
  4. The best preventive measure is the avoidance of skin irritants by regular diaper changing.
  5. Effective diaper rash treatment includes frequent diaper changes and constant application of topical barriers such as petroleum jelly.
  6. Parents must avoid everyday use of low-potency hydrocortisone cream or topical antibiotic/antifungal ointments.
  7. Parents must avoid High-potency steroid creams, harsh powders, and concentrated baking-soda/boric-acid baths and lotions that contain neomycin.

What is a diaper rash?

Diaper rash is a commonly used term that indicates any skin irritation (no matter the cause) that develops in the region of a baby’s skin covered by a diaper.

Synonyms of diaper rash include napkin (or “nappy”) dermatitis, diaper dermatitis (dermatitis means inflammation of the skin), and ammonia dermatitis.

There are several known causes of diaper rash, and contact irritation is the most common cause of this irritation.

While diaper rash is generally believed to affect toddlers and infants, any individual putting on a diaper (even an incontinent adult) will most likely develop a diaper rash.

Is diaper rash a sign of neglect on the parent’s side?

No, that is far from real. Parents usually blame themselves and feel like the diaper rash is visual proof of bad care skills.

However, parents must know that the primary cause of this common skin irritation is still being studied and is inactive debate in the field of dermatology, and neglectful parenting is nothing close to being the cause of diaper rash.

In the United States alone, diaper rash makes up about 10 to 20% of all skin conditions managed by a general pediatrician.

While the diaper rash may show up as early as the first week of a child’s life, the most frequent time it is noticed is between 9-12 months.

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Several studies have mentioned that, at any point in time, between 7%-35% of kids within this age range are dealing with such a skin rash.

What causes a diaper rash?

There are several known categories of causes for this skin irritation. Primary and the most common cause is “irritant” or “contact” dermatitis.

The skin involvement in this irritation may vary from mild redness (this usually looks like a sunburn) to an erosion of the top layers of your baby’s skin.

A characteristic different between contract diaper dermatitis and the different other causes of diaper rash is that it hardly ever involves regions with the skin fold — therefore, it doesn’t affect areas that are usually not in contact with urine/stool.

Skin infections are the next most common cause of diaper rash. Bacteria like staph and strep and yeast/fungal (Candida) are the most common bacterial causes of diaper rash.

Generally, both types of infections mentioned here tend to stem from a disruption of skin’s natural state, which causes the natural defense mechanisms to be overwhelmed, especially in this diaper region.

Strep and Staph bacterial infections are usually termed impetigo. To paint a classic description of impetigo, it can best be described as small (1-2 mm) tiny blisters and pustules that can easily pop and leave multiple erosions in the affected skin area.

Candida diaper rash also has a variety of patterns. The diaper rash is characterized by areas of bright red skin and small injuries or irritated skin.

Different from contact dermatitis, Candida is mostly only found in the areas with skin folds and usually found around the anal region.

There are Infectious causes of diaper dermatitis, and these causes can generally only be diagnosed by via inspection. If there is any confusion after a visual inspection, a swab test of the affected skin areas may be carried out.

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Allergic reactions are also a cause of diaper rash, but they are a less common cause. Some of the common allergens that may trigger such reactions include fragrances and components of the baby wipes and diapers.

These regions usually have a well-defined area of redness with superficial blisters and erosions. If the cause of your baby’s diaper rash is suspected to be an allergic skin reaction, you may have to do a skin patch test to identify the agent responsible. Such testing is rarely necessary.

In addition to these common causes of diaper rash, which we have already listed, there are also several unusual reasons of this skin reaction.

Some of these rare causes include infections, malignancies, metabolic and nutritional deficiencies, and immunodeficiency.

Unfortunately, some things parents do, such as hot-water immersion, extreme neglect of infant hygiene, may also cause a diaper rash.

What are diaper rash symptoms and signs?

A diaper rash is an obvious irritation or change in the skin covered by a baby’s diaper. Most commonly, the irritated skin will be red and may or may not suffer erosion of the first skin layers.

There may be small blisters on the affected area. If the area of skin that is irritated skin is also sensitive, changing your baby’s diaper may be mildly uncomfortable to them.

How do doctors diagnose the cause of a diaper rash?

Most cases of diaper rashes are caused by contact with skin irritants ( sweat, urine, or stool), causing inflammation to be immature and vulnerable skin.

This kind of rash is known as a contact skin irritant rash. There are times when two types of infections may happen independently or turn out as a complication of a contact diaper rash.

Staph and strep bacterial skin infections can be connected with pustules or tiny blisters. You may also notice a candida yeast infection in the diaper region and possibly around the anal area.

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What treatments are recommended for diaper rash?

There are several treatment options for diaper rash. Still, the best treatment we can recommend for you is an avoidance of the precipitating agents, which causes the contact irritation and to areas that are becoming secondarily infected by yeast or — skin bacteria.

Regular diaper change helps to limit exposure to stool and urine, and that makes it the foundation for preventing and managing diaper rash.

Should a diaper rash develop, a simple rinse with clean lukewarm water and a soft cloth is less irritating to the affected skin area than cleaning with disposable wipes.

Frequent use of one of the varieties of diaper-area ointments that contain either zinc oxide (Desitin) or petroleum jelly (Vaseline) makes an effective barrier against skin irritants and reduces friction to irritated skin.

If the diaper rash is mostly irritated by the rubbing required for proper hygiene, then opting for a non-sticky cream or ointment (like Vaseline) as a barrier may be a paramount consideration.

If you notice sticky stool as a hygiene hindrance, it may be easily removed with the application of mineral oil to the stained area. Most pediatricians do not think it is beneficial to use cornstarch or talcum powder as a barrier.

Open-air exposure of the affected skin is also beneficial in helping to treat diaper rash. Many babies have a therapeutic response to merely sitting in a warm-water bath two times a day for 15-20 minutes each session.

The benefits associated with putting additional agents (including baking soda) into the bathwater has been debated.

If all of these measures do not provide any form of help within the first two to three days of use, then you may have to consider the possibility of a secondary bacterial or yeast infection.

A pediatrician should adequately examine the diaper covered region except in cases where the parent is confident that they have correctly made the diagnoses. Several topical antibiotic ointments are available for treatment in such situations.

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Are there home remedies for a diaper rash?

There are quite many home remedies for diaper rash, and these remedies include:

air exposure (such as leaving the baby’s butt open for short periods of no less than the 30 minutes), extra bathing ( at least 10-15 minutes in warm water), Use of topical barriers to the baby’s butt region.

Zinc oxide and Petroleum jelly (Vaseline) and can be quite helpful. Baby powders or any other type of powder is not recommended. High concentrations of baking soda or boric acid baths are also not recommended.

How about not using disposable diapers?

Parents have often asked if switching from disposable diapers to cloth diapers will reduce the likelihood of their babies dealing with contact type of diaper rash.

It is interesting to note that the opposite of this seems to be true. Most of today’s diapers contain an absorbent gel material that sucks up moisture away from your baby’s skin area, thus helping to keep the diaper area dry and healthy.

How should an allergic rash be treated?

Once you have confirmed that your baby is dealing with an allergic reaction to the fragrances or other irritants found in disposable wipes or diapers, you should consider eliminating the irritating agents by using either freshwater for cleansing the skin or just switching to a different brand of disposable diapers.

Is it possible to prevent a diaper rash?

Several approaches can help you prevent a diaper rash. These approaches include the timely changing of dirty diapers, changing diaper brands to check out for the possibility of a different sensitivity reaction, extra bathing, and air exposure.

It is very vital for parents to bear in mind that the development of a diaper rash is not their fault in every case. Instead, it is one of the challenges that come with parenthood.

Have you had to treat diaper rash recently? We understand that it must have been a challenge, and we would love to know how you dealt with it. Your comment and question will be useful to other parents.

We look forward to hearing from you.

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