Your little one’s skin gives new meaning to the words “baby soft.” But there’s a spot inside your baby’s diaper where skin can quickly become red and irritated because of diaper rash.

You should expect your baby to experience some redness and irritation every once in a while. But some babies experience diaper rash that won’t seem to go away or appears unusually irritated.

When this is the case, you may need to use treatments that go beyond typical preventive care. Fortunately, there are treatments available to help clear your baby’s diaper rash.

What causes diaper rash?

Diaper rash is most often due to one or more of the following causes.

Allergies

Your baby’s skin could be irritated due to perfumes, soaps, or dyes in diapers. Baby might also be allergic to clothing, baby wipes, or baby washes. If you’ve recently switched brands or tried a new product and notice your baby’s skin is irritated, your baby may be experiencing an allergic reaction.

Antibiotic use

If your baby is taking antibiotics, this can kill “good” bacteria as well as harmful bacteria. Yeast can start to grow excessively as a result. If you are breast-feeding and taking antibiotics, your baby is also at greater risk for diaper rash.

Infection

Diaper rashes that won’t go away are often the result of a yeast infection. Your baby’s diaper is a warm, moist area that naturally attracts yeast that can lead to infection. The fungus Candida albicans (the medical term for yeast) is a common culprit for causing diaper rash. Skin appears reddened with red dots or bumps at the edges.

Irritation

Moisture, wetness, and acidity from urine and poop can also cause diaper rash. This is especially true if your baby is experiencing diarrhea that leaves them with a frequently wet and poopy diaper.

Diaper rash can make your baby increasingly sensitive to diaper changes. Your baby may become fussy and cry when you’re cleaning their skin.

Prescription treatments

The typical treatment for diaper rash includes keeping your baby’s bottom as clean and dry as possible.

You can also try:

  • changing diapers at the sign of wetness
  • cleaning the area with a gentle washcloth
  • allowing the skin to air-dry
  • applying a diaper cream that contains zinc oxide

But if these treatments don’t work as well, your baby’s doctor may prescribe targeted, topical ointments. Your child’s doctor will examine the area to determine if it appears fungal or bacterial in nature. If needed, your child’s doctor may take a skin sample to determine the exact cause.

Examples of prescription treatments that may help to get rid of persistent diaper rash include:

  • hydrocortisone cream
  • antifungal cream
  • topical antibiotics

If the infection is bacterial in nature, a doctor may also prescribe oral antibiotics. But you should never apply over-the-counter hydrocortisone or topical antibiotics to your baby’s diaper rash. Use prescription medications or get approval from your doctor before using over-the-counter treatments.

You also want to avoid products that could be harmful or potentially toxic to babies, which includes ingredients like:

  • benzocaine
  • camphor
  • salicylates

Using medicated ointments that aren’t right for your baby’s diaper rash can do more harm than help.

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At-home treatments

You can also take steps at home to treat your baby’s diaper rash while prescription treatments take effect. Try these ideas for at-home treatments.

Air your baby’s skin out.

Schedule time periods during the day where your baby doesn’t wear a diaper to allow your baby’s skin to air out and be dry. You could put them on a waterproof or washable changing mat for 10-minute time periods to allow the skin greater air exposure.  

Go up a diaper size.

Too-tight diapers can keep moisture closer to the skin. By temporarily going up a size in diapers, you can reduce irritation and moisture to the existing diaper rash. You may also need to change your baby’s diaper during the night to keep excess moisture at bay.

Use a two-part application process.

If your doctor does prescribe a special topical cream, ask them if applying a protectant like petroleum jelly over the cream could help your child. This might keep your baby’s diaper from sticking to the medicated cream. But this isn’t recommended for all babies because the petroleum jelly could affect the skin’s ability to air out.

When to see a doctor

Call the pediatrician if your baby’s diaper rash doesn’t go away or reduce after a few days of home care. Some other signs that your child’s diaper rash might require prescription medical care include:

  • bleeding, oozing, or itching skin
  • fever along with the diaper rash
  • it appears to be causing your child pain with each urination and/or bowel movement

Your child’s doctor can examine the rash and make recommendations as needed for treatment.

The takeaway

Diaper rash is an itchy and uncomfortable by-product of babies and diaper wearing. If your baby experiences diaper rash, you may need to consider:

  • switching diaper brands
  • using different wipes
  • adding an ointment application
  • changing their diaper more often

Fortunately, diaper rash is a highly treatable condition. With some extra TLC, your baby can quickly heal.