What Is Diaper Rash?

Diaper rash is a common condition that affects infants and toddlers. It is characterized by red, irritated skin in the diaper area, including the buttocks, genitals, and inner thighs. The rash occurs due to prolonged exposure of the baby’s skin to urine and feces, along with factors such as friction, heat, and moisture trapped by the diaper. Most children suffer from it at least once before they are toilet trained (Medscape, 2012).

Also known as diaper dermatitis, diaper rash causes uncomfortable burning and redness on areas of the skin that come into contact with and rub against a diaper.

Types of Diaper Rash

This article focuses on common diaper rash, or diaper dermatitis, which responds to basic treatments including frequent diaper changes.

Other types of skin rashes may be agitated by wearing a diaper. These rashes include other forms of dermatitis, psoriasis, and rashes caused by conditions such as syphilis, HIV, and bullous impetigo.


The primary cause of diaper rash is the combination of wetness and the acidity of urine and feces, which can irritate and damage the delicate skin of a baby. Other factors that can contribute to diaper rash include:

  1. Friction: Rubbing and chafing of the skin against the diaper can further irritate the affected area.
  2. Infrequent diaper changes: Leaving a wet or soiled diaper on for an extended period can increase the likelihood of developing a rash.
  3. Introduction of new foods: When babies start solid foods or experience changes in their diet, it can affect the composition of their stool, potentially leading to diaper rash.
  4. Antibiotics: Certain antibiotics can disrupt the balance of bacteria in the digestive system, causing diarrhea and increasing the risk of diaper rash.

To prevent or manage diaper rash, it is important to keep the diaper area clean and dry. Here are some tips:

  1. Change diapers frequently: Regularly check the diaper and change it as soon as it becomes wet or soiled.
  2. Gently clean the area: Use a soft cloth or baby wipes to clean the diaper area during each diaper change. Avoid using harsh soaps or wipes with alcohol or fragrance.
  3. Allow the skin to air dry: Whenever possible, let your baby go diaper-free for a short period to allow the skin to breathe and dry out.
  4. Apply a barrier cream: Use a protective barrier cream, such as zinc oxide or petroleum jelly, to create a barrier between the baby’s skin and moisture.

If the rash persists or becomes severe, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional who can provide further guidance and recommend appropriate treatment options, such as medicated creams or ointments.


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