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Diaper Rash, Non-Infected (Infant/Toddler)

Front and back views of baby showing common areas for daiper rash to form.

Diaper rash is a common skin problem in infants and toddlers. The rash is often red, with small bumps or scales. It can spread quickly. Areas that have a rash can include the skin folds on the upper and inner legs, the genitals, and the buttocks.

Diaper rash is often caused by urine and feces, especially if diapers are not changed frequently. When urine and feces combine, they make ammonia. Ammonia is a chemical that irritates the skin. Young children’s skin can also be irritated by baby wipes, laundry detergent and softeners, and chemicals in diapers.

The best treatment for diaper rash is to change a wet or soiled diaper as soon as possible. The soiled skin should be gently cleaned with warm water. After the skin is air-dried, put a barrier cream or ointment like zinc oxide on the rash. In most cases, the rash will clear in a few days. If the rash is untreated, the skin can develop a yeast or bacterial infection.

Home care

Follow these tips when caring for your child at home:

  • Always wash your hands well with soap and warm water before and after changing your child’s diaper and applying any cream or ointment on the skin.

  • Check for soiled diapers regularly. Change your child’s diaper as soon as you notice it is soiled. Gently pat the area clean with a warm, wet soft cloth. If you use soap, it should be gentle and scent-free. 

  • Apply a thick layer of barrier cream or ointment on the rash. The cream can be left on the skin between diaper changes. New layers of cream can be safely applied on top of previous, clean layers. A layer of petroleum jelly can be put on top of the barrier cream. This will prevent the skin from sticking to the diaper.

  • Don’t overclean the affected skin areas. Also don’t apply powders such as talc or cornstarch to the affected skin areas.

  • Change your child’s diaper at least once at night. Put the diaper on loosely. 

  • Allow your child to go without a diaper for periods of time. Exposing the skin to air will help it to heal.

  • Use a breathable cover for cloth diapers instead of rubber pants. Slit the elastic legs or cover of a disposable diaper in a few places. This will allow air to reach your child’s skin.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your child’s healthcare provider, or as directed.

When to seek medical advice

Unless your child's healthcare provider advises otherwise, call the provider right away if:

  • Your child is 3 months old or younger and has a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher. (Seek treatment right away. Fever in a young baby can be a sign of a serious infection.)

  • Your child is younger than 2 years of age and has a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) that lasts for more than 1 day.

  • Your child is 2 years old or older and has a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) that continues for more than 3 days.

  • Your child is of any age and has repeated fevers above 104°F (40°C).

Also call the provider right away if:

  • Your child is fussier than normal or keeps crying and can't be soothed.

  • Your child’s rash doesn’t get better, or gets worse after several days of treatment.

  • Your child appears uncomfortable or complains of too much itching.

  • Your child develops new symptoms such as blisters, open sores, raw skin, or bleeding.

  • Your child has signs of infection such as warmth, redness, swelling, or unusual or foul-smelling drainage in the affected skin areas.

 

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