Yeast Diaper Rash

Yeast diaper rashes are a common condition that affects diaper-wearing individuals, most often infants less than one-year-old. Yeast on the body overgrows and causes a rash in the diaper region when the body's balance of yeast changes. An antifungal medication will clear the rash and prevent it from returning.

Overview

yeast diaper rash
The application of antifungal medication to a yeast diaper rash.

What is a yeast diaper rash?

A diaper rash is a common condition that creates red and purple swollen, sore patches of skin near your baby’s diaper region.

Yeast is a type of fungus that naturally lives on your body in small amounts, often found in your mouth, skin and in your intestines. Your body also hosts healthy bacteria, which control the balance of yeast (microbiome) to prevent infection. If the balance of yeast and bacteria is off, yeast will overgrow, which will cause a rash.

Most common in diaper-wearing children, yeast, specifically Candida albicans yeast, could cause a diaper rash on infants if the balance of yeast and healthy bacteria is off balance. Infected feces are the main source for a Candida diaper rash.

Diaper rashes are the result of irritation from their diaper causing friction against their skin, an infection or an allergic reaction. A combination of irritation and infection from Candida overgrowth is a yeast diaper rash, also known as Candida diaper dermatitis.

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What is the difference between a diaper rash and a yeast infection?

A yeast infection could be the cause of a diaper rash, but there are differences between the two diagnoses.

Yeast Infection
Skin that is bumpy (pimples), shiny, cracked or oozy with a deep red or purple tone.
Diaper Rash
Skin that is dry, scaly or smooth with a light pink to purple tone.
Appears on skin folds near the groin, legs and genitals.
Diaper Rash
Appears on larger surfaces like the buttocks.
Rash could be in several, smaller spots along the diaper region.
Diaper Rash
Rash is in one spot along the diaper region.
Treat with antifungal medication, which could take a few weeks to clear.
Diaper Rash
Treat with diaper creams that clear in a couple days.

Who does a yeast diaper rash affect?

A yeast diaper rash affects anyone who wears a diaper, but it's most common in babies and infants. Rashes most often affect babies between nine months and one year.

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How common are yeast diaper rashes?

Skin problems are common in infants and children. Most babies develop a form of diaper rash during the time that they wear a diaper. Studies show that nearly one out of every three infants could have a diaper rash at any point in time and more than half of children between four months and 15 months have a diaper rash at least once in a two-month period. A diaper rash is very common after taking systemic antibiotics.

How does a yeast diaper rash affect my baby’s body?

A diaper rash causes skin irritation and your baby will show signs of discomfort, like crying, trying to itch the area or they will become fussy, which might be difficult to ease. To lessen your baby’s reaction to the symptoms of the rash, visit or call your baby’s healthcare provider at the first sign to treat the condition.

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Symptoms and Causes

What does a yeast diaper rash look like?

Symptoms of a yeast diaper rash will appear in the diaper area in the folds of your baby’s skin, which includes the groin area, genitals, buttocks and upper thigh. Symptoms of a yeast diaper rash include:

  • Deep red or purple raised patch of skin.
  • Bumps or tiny fluid-filled pimples.
  • Rash that appears shiny.
  • Cracked or very dry skin.
  • Itchiness, mild pain and discomfort.

Severe cases of a yeast diaper rash create painful open sores on your baby’s skin that may ooze clear fluid or bleed when the skin breaks due to friction from your baby’s diaper.

What causes a yeast diaper rash?

A type of yeast that lives on our bodies in small amounts is Candida albicans. Sometimes outside factors disrupt the balance of Candida and healthy bacteria (microbiome), causing a rash to form in the diaper area of our baby’s skin. Yeast is a type of fungus that thrives is warm and moist environments, making the diaper region the perfect place for yeast to grow.

Contributing factors to the development of yeast diaper rashes include:

  • Little to no air circulation on the skin.
  • Urine or stool touching skin for long periods of time (overnight).
  • Diaper material rubbing on skin repeatedly.
  • Side effect of taking antibiotics or receiving them from a chestfeeding (breastfeeding) parent.

Is a yeast diaper rash contagious?

Yeast diaper rashes are not contagious like a cold or virus. Yeast infections are the result of an overgrowth of yeast due to an imbalance of healthy bacteria in your baby’s body. It is important to wash your hands thoroughly after diaper changes to keep your body’s yeast and healthy bacteria balanced.

Diagnosis and Tests

How is a yeast diaper rash diagnosed?

Your baby’s healthcare provider will visually examine the affected area to begin the diagnosis. They will ask questions about your baby’s symptoms, including duration and severity, along with questions about any medications that you or your baby might be taking that could disrupt the balance of yeast in your baby’s body. Occasionally they will swab the rash with sterile cotton to examine the type of yeast under a microscope.

Management and Treatment

How do I treat a yeast diaper rash?

Since yeast is a fungus, your healthcare provider will recommend an antifungal medication (cream, ointment or pill) to stop the yeast overgrowth and treat the rash. For severe yeast diaper rash, your healthcare provider might recommend a steroid ointment (hydrocortisone) to combat the issue.

Your healthcare provider will give you instructions on how to apply the antifungal cream and how long you should be using it to make sure the infection clears up completely to reduce the likelihood of it returning.

Can I treat a yeast diaper rash with over-the-counter medicine?

Yes, you can use over-the-counter antifungal creams such as clotrimazole to treat a yeast diaper rash. This treatment option may be effective but it is not certain that it will clear the rash or treat the overgrowth of yeast completely without a diagnosis from your healthcare provider to target the specific type of yeast that caused the rash.

How do I manage symptoms of a yeast diaper rash?

There are several ways that you can manage yeast diaper rash symptoms on your baby. Treatment options include:

  • Cleaning the rash often: Since the rash causes discomfort, gently clean the diaper area with water and a soft washcloth. Disposable diaper wipes are helpful, but avoid wipes that contain alcohol and fragrances. Delicately pat the diaper area dry rather than rubbing or allowing the area to air dry.
  • Applying an ointment or cream on the rash: After treating the rash with an antifungal medication, apply a thick layer of protective ointment or cream, like one that contains zinc oxide or petroleum jelly to create a barrier between the diaper and the skin. Ointments are usually thick and don't have to be completely removed at the next diaper change.
  • Frequently changing your baby’s diaper: Yeast thrives in warm and damp environments, so it is best to keep the diaper area as clean and dry as possible. Changing diapers often makes sure that there is less moisture on your baby’s skin. Change your baby’s diaper at least once during the night and, if possible, leave your baby’s diaper off for a short amount of time to increase airflow between diaper changes or during nap time. Keep the diaper loose so that the soiled area doesn’t rub against their skin as much.

How long does it take for a yeast diaper rash to go away?

After treating the yeast diaper rash with antifungal medication, symptoms will start to fade and may disappear after three days. The overgrowth of yeast may still be present after symptoms go away, so it is important to follow treatment guidelines from your healthcare provider from start to finish to make sure the rash does not return. It may take between two to three weeks for a yeast diaper rash to completely clear up.

Prevention

How can I prevent a yeast diaper rash?

You can prevent a yeast diaper rash by:

  • Avoid using baby wipes with fragrances or alcohol.
  • Changing diapers frequently.
  • Cleaning skin between diaper changes.
  • Not securing diapers too tightly to allow airflow or leaving diapers off for short periods of time.
  • Using highly absorbent diapers.
  • Using ointment or cream to create a barrier between skin and diaper.
  • Discussing side effects of medications (antibiotics) you or your baby take with your healthcare provider.

Outlook / Prognosis

What can I expect if my baby has a yeast diaper rash?

If your baby has a yeast diaper rash, they will show signs of irritation and discomfort through crying or being fussy, especially during diaper changes. As their caretaker, you will notice a rash forming on or near their diaper area, noting color changes of their skin, elevated skin and small pimples forming in the folds of their skin. Treatment will clear the symptoms that are irritating your baby within the first couple of days, but it will take a couple of weeks for the rash to go away completely. Make sure you finish treatment as advised by your baby’s healthcare provider so the rash doesn’t return.

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When should I see my healthcare provider?

If you notice signs of a diaper rash and traditional diaper creams or ointments don’t clear the rash, it increases in size and causes extreme discomfort for your baby, you should visit your healthcare provider. If your baby’s rash turns into an open sore, bleeds frequently or starts to ooze yellow or clear fluid, those are symptoms of an infection and you should visit your healthcare provider immediately.

What questions should I ask my doctor?

  • How long should I use an antifungal cream on my baby’s skin?
  • If I am chestfeeding (breastfeeding) and on antibiotics, how will that affect my baby?
  • What can I do to make sure a yeast diaper rash does not come back after I finish treatment?

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Diaper rashes are very common among diaper-wearing children. It is easy to disrupt the balance of yeast on your baby’s growing body, making yeast diaper rashes a temporary discomfort, treatable with an antifungal medication. Talk with your baby’s healthcare provider to choose the right treatment option that best suits your baby’s needs and follow instructions on the antifungal medication to make sure the rash doesn’t return.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/21/2022.

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