Diaper Rash (Diaper Dermatitis)
What is diaper rash?
A diaper rash is any rash that forms in your baby’s diaper area. In mild cases, the skin may be red and tender. A more severe diaper rash may have painful, open sores. Mild cases clear up within three to four days with home treatment. More severe cases may need medical treatment. Diaper rashes are the most common skin condition seen in young infants.
Types of diaper rash
Diaper rash types include:
- Irritant diaper rash: Irritant diaper rash, or diaper dermatitis, is the most common type of diaper rash. It occurs when your baby’s diaper area has too much moisture and/or prolonged contact with pee (urine) and poop (stool).
- Candida diaper rash: An overgrowth of a type of fungus called candida can cause yeast diaper rashes. Candida is found naturally in your baby’s digestive tract.
- Bacterial diaper rash: Rarely, certain types of bacteria, such as staph or strep, can cause diaper rash. Another name for this type is impetigo.
- Allergic reaction diaper rash: If your baby has sensitive skin, they may have an allergic reaction to ingredients in certain diapers, wipes and/or diaper creams.
How common is diaper rash?
Diaper rash is very common. More than half of babies between 4 and 15 months of age will have a diaper rash at least once in a two-month period.
Symptoms and Causes
What does diaper rash look like?
In mild cases, your baby may have slightly reddened skin around their buttocks, genitals and thighs. The area may be warm to the touch. The rash may be just a few spots, or it may cover the entire diaper area.
In more severe cases, the rash may include painful, open blisters or sores. If it gets infected, the rash may turn bright red and the skin around the area may get swollen.
What causes diaper rash?
Many different things can cause diaper rash, including:
- Too much moisture in your baby’s diaper area.
- Chafing or rubbing (intertrigo) in their diaper area.
- When pee or poop touch your baby’s skin for long periods of time.
- Yeast infection.
- Bacterial infection.
- Allergic reaction to diaper material.
- Reaction to food (food allergies).
When skin stays wet for too long, it starts to break down. Rubbing wet skin damages it more easily. Moisture from a soiled diaper can harm your baby’s skin and make it more prone to chafing. When this happens, a diaper rash may develop.
What increases the risk for diaper rash?
Diaper rash occurs more often when your baby:
- Doesn’t stay clean and dry.
- Poops frequently, especially when their poop stays in their diaper overnight.
- Has diarrhea.
- Begins to eat solid foods.
- Is taking antibiotics or you’re nursing your baby and taking antibiotics.
Diagnosis and Tests
How is diaper rash diagnosed?
Your baby’s healthcare provider can diagnose diaper rash by looking at it. However, you may not need to seek medical treatment for a diaper rash. You can usually treat the condition at home.
Management and Treatment
How do you treat diaper rash?
The first step in diaper rash treatment is keeping the area as clean and dry as possible. Change wet or soiled diapers right away. This helps cut down on how much moisture is on your baby’s skin.
Gently clean your baby’s diaper area with water and a soft washcloth. You may also use disposable diaper wipes, but sometimes rubbing the area should be avoided to prevent worsening irritation. Avoid wipes that contain alcohol and fragrance. Use soap and water only if your baby’s poop doesn’t come off easily. If your baby’s rash is severe, use a squirt bottle of water so you can clean and rinse without rubbing.
Pat dry; don’t rub. Allow the area to air-dry fully.
Apply a thick layer of protective diaper rash cream or ointment. The best diaper rash creams contain zinc oxide or petroleum jelly. These ointments are usually thick and don’t have to be completely removed at the next diaper change. Remember, heavy scrubbing or rubbing will only damage your baby’s skin more.
Don’t make your baby’s diaper too tight, especially overnight. Keep their diaper loose so the wet and soiled parts don’t rub against their skin as much.
Can I use baking soda or cornstarch for diaper rash?
You may see diaper rash remedies on the internet that include using household ingredients such as baking soda or cornstarch. But you want to be careful what you put on your baby’s broken skin. Certain products can cause more irritation or even lead to an infection. Stick with store-bought diaper rash creams to get rid of diaper rash.
How do you prevent diaper rash?
There are many ways you can prevent diaper rash, including:
- Being aware and change your baby’s diapers as soon as they’re wet or soiled. Clean, dry diapers reduce the risk of diaper rash.
- Exposing your baby’s bottom to fresh air by leaving their diaper off whenever possible.
- Using mild detergent to wash your baby’s clothes and linens.
- Carefully observing any changes in your baby’s skin and digestion when introducing new foods.
Which type of diaper should I use?
Diapers are made of either cloth or disposable materials. You can wash cloth diapers after they get soiled and use them again. You must throw away disposable diapers after each use.
Research suggests that diaper rash is less common with the use of disposable diapers. However, what’s more important than the type of diaper is how often it’s changed.
Whether you use cloth diapers, disposables or both, always change diapers as needed to keep your baby clean, dry and healthy.
Outlook / Prognosis
How long does diaper rash last?
Mild diaper rashes typically go away with home treatment within three to four days. More severe cases may require treatment with antibiotics or antifungals. With these medications, your baby’s diaper rash may take a week or longer to clear up.
When should I call my baby’s healthcare provider about diaper rash?
Sometimes a diaper rash needs medical attention. Talk with your baby’s healthcare provider if:
- Your newborn has a diaper rash.
- The rash doesn’t look like it’s going away or gets worse two to three days after starting treatment.
- The diaper rash bleeds or has blisters or pus-filled sores.
- The rash spreads to your baby’s arms, face or scalp.
- Your baby is taking an antibiotic and has a bright red rash with red spots at its edges.
- Your baby has a fever along with a rash.
- The rash is very painful.
- You suspect a yeast infection.
What questions should I ask my baby’s healthcare provider?
You may have questions about diaper rash for your baby’s healthcare provider. Some questions you may want to ask include:
- Should I be using cloth or disposable diapers?
- How frequently do I need to be changing my baby’s diaper?
- What’s the best diaper rash cream?
- Should I call you if the diaper rash gets worse?
- Can I leave my baby’s diaper off while they’re sleeping?
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Diaper rash is the most common skin condition in babies. To prevent it, make sure to keep your baby clean and dry, and change their diaper frequently. Young infants have very delicate skin. Despite your best efforts, chances are that your baby will end up with diaper rash at least once. Fortunately, home treatment should clear it up within a few days. If it’s not going away, contact your baby’s healthcare provider for medical care.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy