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How to Prevent and Treat Diaper Rash

Updated on October 4, 2013

What to Do About Diaper Rash and How to Prevent It in the First Place

D

iaper rash can be a persistent and recurring problem in babies. Treating diaper rash effectively and then preventing it from coming back is a challenge every new mom faces at one time or another.

As a mother of seven, I've seen lots of cases of diaper rash, along with all the causes and hundreds of cures. I was in the "lab" for many years (my oldest was 21 when my twins were born). My research isn't scientific, but my experience is real.

To Effectively Treat Diaper Rash, You Need to Find the Underlying Cause

There are Many Reasons a Baby Gets Diaper Rash

F

irst of all, if your baby is suffering from diaper rash right now, don't panic. Keep baby clean and dry and get something soothing on it.

The next step is to determine what might be the cause of the diaper rash. Once you do this, you can decide the best way to treat it.

Common Causes of Diaper Rash

Treatment Will Be Hit and Miss Until You Determine the Cause

The Most Common Causes of Diaper Rash

1. Not changing baby often enough.

2. Diaper not wicking moisture away from baby's skin. (Applies to cloth or disposable.)

3. Cloth diaper not getting rinsed well enough.

4. Baby is sensitive to the brand of disposable diaper.

5. Baby is sensitive to chemicals in the fibers of the cloth diaper.

6. Baby is sensitive to laundry detergent or softener.

7. Baby is sensitive to something mom ate, or something baby ate if they're older.

8. Baby is sensitive to the soap, baby wipes, or other product you use for the diaper area.

9. Baby is taking medicine for an unrelated condition.

10. Baby is sensitive to the actual diaper rash ointment you're currently using.

How to Determine the Cause of Your Baby's Diaper Rash

Being a Diaper Rash Detective

T

he first case of diaper rash I encountered became very severe with blisters and slight bleeding. The doctor kept saying I needed to keep my baby dry -- to change him more often. I did that, and the rash got slightly better, and then even worse. What was actually happening was the ammonia in my baby's urine was reacting to the residue of laundry soap left in the cloth diapers, and the result was the burning and blistering of his tender skin.

The fix for this is to put cloth diapers through extra rinses, and use a cup of vinegar in the rinse cycle.

Switching to disposable diapers was the one single thing I did that cured most of the diaper rashes I encountered over seven kids and 25 years of diapering.

The next most common cause of diaper rash in our home was when antibiotics were prescribed. Not only does the baby often get diarrhea, causing irritation and frequent diaper changes, but the medicine itself irritates baby's bottom when it comes through. The treatment for this cause of diaper rash is a balancing act. Baby needs the medicine, so a combination of changing immediately and using a very soothing ointment is in order (more on ointments later).

Switching to disposable diapers was the one single thing I did that cured most of the diaper rashes

Narrowing Down the Cause of Baby's Diaper Rash

Using a Simple Step-by-Step Process

Use common sense: What is it that is coming in contact with baby's sensitive skin that is causing the rash? The possibilities I can think of are:

The material of the diaper itself

The chemical reaction of baby's urine with the laundry products in the diaper

The fact that the diaper doesn't wick moisture away from baby's skin

The fit of the diaper not allowing baby's skin to breathe

A product (soap, wipe, cream) that you use directly on baby's skin

Something baby has ingested making the result in the urine either acidic or alkaline (both burn)

T

he desired result is to keep baby's skin clean and dry. Since baby needs to wear diapers, your diapering choice becomes the most important factor in preventing future outbreaks of diaper rash. Diaper rash ointment helps with healing, but usually won't prevent rash in the first place.

Keep an open mind about diapers. You have probably chosen your method of diapering before your baby's birth. For environmental or other reasons you're comfortable with your choice. You may even have a passionate opinion about it. But no matter how invested you are (literally or emotionally) in your choice, be prepared to change your method overnight for the benefit of what's best for your baby. I had to do this when I switched to disposable. I actually accidentally discovered that my baby's rash disappeared after a trip of using disposable diapers for the convenience.

The opposite could be true as well. Many disposable diapers have little pellets of absorbant material. Some babies are sensitive to these. Some have deodorizers or other chemicals.

This would be a good experiment. Change diapering systems for a week and see if there is any difference.

Remember: Something is toxic to baby's skin. Don't just slather cream on baby and hope it will go away. It's your job to find out what is hurting your baby. If you really focus on the cause, I believe moms (and some dads) can really get tuned in to their baby's needs and find solutions to difficult problems.

In the Meantime, We Still Have a Diaper Rash Right NOW

Treating the Immediate Problem of Diaper Rash

I

f diaper rash is mild, you have time to work on the cause to prevent future outbreaks. But if the rash is severe and problematic here are the first aid steps to do now:

1. Use warm water and pure, mild soap with a soft washcloth or non abrasive sponge to cleanse baby's bottom.

2. Air baby's bottom with no diaper as much as possible.

3. Use a diaper ointment or cream (my recommendations follow) and frequent diaper changes.

TIP: Think of the diaper like gauze protecting a wound.

I found two products to be the most helpful when diaper rash needed help to clear up and heal. I'm sure there are many new products that are just as good, and usually doctors have the best suggestions. But over the years these are the two I have on hand at all times:

1. A & D Ointment

2. Desitin Original Formula (zinc oxide ointment)

A & D provides soothing and healing, but needs to be reapplied often and isn't effective for severe rashes with blisters.

Desitin contains zinc oxide plus A & D. It is healing, but also provides a barrier from wetness. The only downside is, while it seals out wetness it also keeps air out. It is hard to wash off, causing more irritation to baby's skin when you have to scrub at it (so don't).

If I could only have one of the above it would be the Desitin. Even though I couldn't entirely clean it off while my baby was so sore, the blisters healed over a few days. I couldn't live without it while I was working on the underlying cause of the diaper rash.

You can find both A&D and Desitin at practically any grocery store and of course drugstores.

At the First Signs of Diaper Rash

Try to determine the cause of the diaper rash and eliminate.

Keep baby dry and expose rash to air as much as possible.

Use a healing ointment.

Talk to the doctor if you suspect a medicine or food is the cause.

Desitin Paste in Jars or Tubes

Desitin Maximum Strength Original Paste, 16 Ounce (Pack of 2)
Desitin Maximum Strength Original Paste, 16 Ounce (Pack of 2)

This is my first pick for treating a severe case of diaper rash. It forms a protective barrier while aiding in the healing.

 

Be Very Choosy About What You Wash Baby's Clothes & Diapers In

Please share any personal tips you have for treating diaper rash.

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    • Rosetta Slone profile image

      Rosetta Slone 

      5 years ago from Under a coconut tree

      The best tip I've found is to let baby go diaper-free as much as possible. We're in the tropics, so it's easy to let baby play naked when it's hot.

      For really bad rashes, a squirt of breast milk is very effective. I honestly haven't found any cream or product that works as fast.

    • blessedmomto7 profile image

      blessedmomto7 

      7 years ago

      I've got 7 kids myself. Some were more prone to diaper rash and some never got it. Blessed.

    • ramonabeckbritman profile image

      Ramona 

      7 years ago from Arkansas

      Nice Lens. When My children were babies and a Diaper rash flared up I used Monistat Cream on their bottoms. worked very well.

    • BunnyFabulous profile image

      BunnyFabulous 

      9 years ago from Central Florida

      I really appreciate how you explain how and why to be a diaper rash detective and give a list of what could be causing it. Very thorough.

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