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Diaper Rash

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jun 6, 2022.

What do I need to know about diaper rash?

Diaper rash is a kind of dermatitis (skin inflammation) that forms where a diaper touches your child's skin. Diaper rash can occur at any age but is most common between 7 and 12 months.

What increases my child's risk for diaper rash?

  • Irritated skin from urine and bowel movement
  • Not changing diapers often enough
  • Skin sensitivity or allergy to chemicals in soaps, lotions, or fabric softeners
  • Hot or humid weather
  • Bacteria or yeast
  • Eczema
  • Recent treatment with antibiotics
  • A family history of dermatitis

What are the signs and symptoms of diaper rash?

The rash may be located on the skin surface, in the skin folds, or both. Your child may have any of the following:

  • Red and shiny skin
  • Raw and tender skin
  • Raised bumps or scales
  • Red spots

How is diaper rash treated?

Treatment may include medicines to treat an infection caused by bacteria or a fungus. You may need to apply the medicine as a cream or ointment to your child's skin. Some medicines may need to be given by mouth.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

What can I do to manage or prevent diaper rash?

  • Change your child's diaper often. Change your child's diaper right away if it is wet or soiled from a bowel movement. Check his or her diaper every hour during the day. Check at least 1 time during the night.
  • Clean your child's diaper area with plain, warm water. Use a squirt bottle, wet cotton balls, or a moist, soft cloth to clean your child's diaper area. Allow the skin to air dry, or gently pat it dry with a clean cloth. Do not use soap during diaper changes. You can use baby wipes that do not contain dye or perfume. These may cause the rash area to burn or sting. Make sure your child's diaper area is completely dry before you put on a new diaper.
  • Leave your child's diaper area open to air as much as possible. Take off your child's diaper when you are at home. Place a large towel or waterproof pad underneath your child while he or she plays or naps. The exposure to air can help heal the rash.
  • Do not rub the diaper rash. This could make your child's skin worse.
  • Protect your child's skin with cream or ointment. Apply cream or ointment when you first see signs of diaper rash. You can apply these 2 to 3 times each day. Make sure his or her diaper area is clean and dry before you apply cream or ointment. Only use products that contain zinc oxide. Do not use baby lotion or oil. These will not provide enough protection to prevent diaper rash. Do not use cornstarch or talcum powder. These can irritate your child's skin.
  • Use extra-absorbent disposable diapers. These pull moisture away from your child's skin so it will not be as irritated. If your child wears cloth diapers, use a stay-dry liner to help pull moisture away from the skin.

What can I do to prevent diaper rash if my child wears cloth diapers?

Presoak all diapers that have bowel movement on them. Wash diapers in hot water and dye-free or perfume-free laundry soap. Rinse them at least 2 times to get rid of extra laundry soap. Do not use fabric softener or dryer sheets. Try not to use plastic pants. If you must use plastic pants, attach them loosely around the diaper. This will help air flow in and out of the diaper and keep your child's skin drier.

When should I call my child's doctor?

  • Your child has more redness, crusting, pus, or large blisters.
  • Your child's rash gets worse or does not get better in 2 or 3 days.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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