Diaper Dermatitis (Diaper Rash)

Diaper Dermatitis (Diaper Rash)

Many children and some adults suffer from diaper dermatitis. Diaper dermatitis is a common rash arising in the setting of an artificially moist and warm environment. In this article, we will cover some information so you can have a basic understanding of why this rash occurs. Read on for tips on how to manage it at home, including information on when to seek consultation from a medical professional.

Diaper Dermatitis in Infants and Children

Diaper dermatitis generally starts first in the skin folds around the groin and on the buttocks. The rash is often bright red in color. This is due to irritation in these areas. Over time the rash can become much more extensive and may start to develop surrounding red bumps or pustules. Those types of changes may suggest a yeast infection superimposed on the irritation.

What causes diaper dermatitis?

Persisting moisture in the warm environment under a diaper and the irritating properties of urine and feces cause this condition. In that environment, the skin tissues start to get inflamed. As these conditions persist, the skin condition will worsen with increased irritation to the point of skin breakdown. This can cause itching and even burning and stinging.

Diaper Dermatitis Prevention

Preventing diaper dermatitis is crucial for maintaining the comfort and health of infants and toddlers. Some effective preventive measures for diaper rash include:

Frequent Diaper Changes

Regularly changing diapers is essential to minimize baby skin exposure to moisture and irritants. Aim for changing disposable diapers every 2-3 hours or as soon as they become wet or soiled.

Absorbent Diapers

Choose high-quality, absorbent diapers that effectively wick moisture away from the skin. Breathable diapers with absorbent cores can help reduce the risk of diaper rash by keeping the skin drier.

Gentle Cleaning

Use mild, fragrance-free wipes or gently clean the diaper area with warm water during diaper changes. Avoid using wipes containing alcohol or harsh chemicals, as they can cause irritated skin.

Barrier Creams or Ointments

Apply a thin layer of diaper rash cream or ointment containing zinc oxide or petroleum jelly as a protective barrier between the skin and moisture. These products can help prevent friction and irritation, especially during prolonged diaper wear.

Allergen Avoidance

If your baby has sensitive skin or known allergies, be cautious with the products you use. Opt for hypoallergenic diapers, wipes, and laundry detergents. Avoid using scented products or those containing potential allergens to prevent allergic reactions.

Treating Diaper Dermatitis

The good news is there are steps you can take at home to treat diaper rash. Where possible, stopping the use of diapers altogether can be the ultimate “cure” for the problem. When that is not possible, consider any or all of the following:

  1. Frequent diaper changes – especially after they are soiled or saturated.
  2. Try to work in diaper-free periods. Let the affected skin dry by air drying.
  3. Using a protective barrier like Desitin paste (zinc oxide diaper cream) to the creases along the sides of the groin extending to the perianal area.
  4. Try a different variety of diapers. Cloth diapers can be especially helpful.
  5. Consider using chemical-free diaper wipes on sensitive skin to keep the diaper area clean and dry.


Untreated or severe diaper dermatitis can lead to complications, including:

Secondary Infections

Bacterial or fungal infections can develop in areas of damaged skin, leading to complications such as cellulitis or candidiasis. Signs of infection include increased redness, warmth, swelling, or the presence of pus-filled lesions.

Prolonged Discomfort

Persistent diaper rash can cause significant discomfort and distress for the baby, leading to irritability, difficulty sleeping, and reluctance to eat or play. Chronic diaper rash can also disrupt the caregiver-infant bond and impact overall well-being.

Exacerbation of Underlying Conditions

Babies with underlying skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis may experience exacerbations of their condition during episodes of diaper dermatitis. Managing diaper rash effectively is essential to prevent worsening of pre-existing skin conditions.

Non-Diaper Related Rashes

Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis (eczema) usually occurs in other areas of the body for babies, like the cheeks, forehead, or scalp. Itchy, dry, and scaly skin with a red appearance are all common symptoms. Although the exact causes of atopic dermatitis are unknown, family genes, weak immune system, and external factors such as dry, hot temperatures, and winter weather can play a role.

Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic Dermatitis is a type of skin condition that can cause crusty yellow or red flaky, scaly patches on the scalp. This skin condition is also referred to as cradle cap. Seborrheic dermatitis may start on the face and spread to other parts of the body such as the diaper area, back of the neck, ears, eyebrows, and other areas where skin folds. Although seborrheic dermatitis can be present year-round, it is generally worse during the transitional seasons such as the spring and fall.

Bacterial Infection

Impetigo is a bacterial infection that is most commonly found on the face of children. However, impetigo can spread to other areas of the body as well. If the infection remains untreated, sores can cause changes in skin color and permanent scars. Signs of impetigo include raised yellow fluid-filled areas and yellow crusted lesions. To prevent and avoid impetigo from spreading to other parts of the body, get treatment for skin conditions such as eczema, and wash cuts and scratches with warm water and anti-bacterial soap.

When to seek a medical professional

If diaper rash persists (or any of the others outlined above) despite trying those things, consider seeking a consultation with a medical professional. The best dermatologists know when a condition needs prescription treatment. Whether it be for a superimposed infection with yeast or to treat the underlying inflammation with topical steroid medication, a trained medical professional can help.

Diaper dermatitis can be a very frustrating problem. However, symptoms can improve if you treat the condition properly. If you remain frustrated, consider seeing us for a consultation at one of our Advanced Dermatology of the Midlands locations.

Advanced Dermatology of the Midlands | Best Dermatologist Omaha & Council Bluffs, IA | Board Certified Dermatologists

At Advanced Dermatology the Midlands Our vision is to deliver the highest level of dermatological care, using the most advanced technology and evidence-based medicine in a personalized and compassionate environment.  Contact us to schedule a consultation. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]