Diaper rashes caused by irritation can occur for a variety of reasons:
- Exposure to urine: When moisture comes in contact with skin for extended periods of time it can irritate the skin and cause redness. Change cloth (and disposable) diapers every 2-4 hours whenever possible to prevent moisture from irritating skin.
- Exposure to stool: If a baby has very loose stools, or more frequent stools than usual, the diaper area can become irritated. Stool contains compounds that convert urine to ammonia, which is very irritating for the skin. Illness, new foods, or (if breastfeeding) different foods in the mother's diet, can cause more frequent stools. Change diapers immediately after your baby has a bowl movement.
- Fragrances or new diapering products: Disposable diapers or wipes may contain fragrances or compounds which irritate skin. If you are cloth diapering you will mostly avoid this source of irritation, but be aware of potential irritation from essential oil blends in cloth wipe solution. Be careful about switching cloth diaper detergents. Most detergent manufacturers recommend doing a soak in the new detergent to remove any residual old detergent when switching detergent brands.
Diaper rashes caused by infection can be the result of bacteria, yeast, or viruses:
- Bacterial or yeast infections: The diaper area is a warm and moist environment, making it easy for bacteria and yeast to grow. Rashes caused by infections can appear as raised red dots.
- Viral infections: Some forms of viral infections can cause rashes in the diaper area. For example, the common childhood illness "Hand, foot, and mouth disease" causes rashes over multiple areas of the body, often including the diaper area. If a viral infection is causing the rash, the virus will have to run its course before the rash will clear up.
Preventing diaper rash:For a baby that is struggling with frequent diaper rashes, prevention is the best treatment. Change diapers frequently. If you are using a prefold, or fitted diapering system consider using a fleece liner to wick moisture away from the skin. You may consider using a pocket style diaper for times when your child will be in a diaper for extended periods of time (naps, overnight, outings). If your baby makes a poop in the diaper, change it immediately to limit the amount of time your child is exposed to the stool. If you are using disposable wipes, consider using a natural variety of wipes, wipes for sensitive skin, or cloth wipes.
Treating diaper rash:If diaper rash is bright red, warm to the touch/raised, and inflamed you should consider seeing a doctor for a proper assessment. Some cases of yeast or bacterial infections require prescription treatment.
- Is the rash clean? You should first ask yourself if you are getting your child's diaper area clean enough at each diaper change. Some babies do fine with a cloth wipe moistened with water, and other babies need to have a cleansing wipe solution. If a rash is present, you will want to gently clean the area with a moist cloth or wipe. You can also lightly dab or wipe the rash with 50:50 mixture of witch hazel and water. Witch hazel acts as a natural astringent and dries up sores.
- Is the rash dry? One of the best things to do for a diaper rash is to let the diaper area breathe by letting your baby go without a diaper for a few hours. This method works very well for rashes caused by irritation, and mild infection. If you have a young baby that is immobile, you can place him tummy-down on a waterproof pad and prefold diaper (or absorbent towel) to catch urine. In good weather, an older baby can play outside diaper-free.
- Is the rash soothed? You can use a cloth-diaper-safe rash cream to sooth the rash and reduce exposure to moisture. Apply rash cream, and use a disposable or reusable liner (aff link) to prevent rash cream from getting onto your cloth diapers. Don't over-do the rash cream. A thin layer of cream applied more frequently is better than a large glob of cream. For older babies, a soothing salt soak (sitz bath) can be a good way to dry up irritation, and calm irritated skin.