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Leave diaper rash behind

Simple steps can reduce your baby's risk for diaper rash.

You've probably heard the saying, "A change will do you good."

And it's true, especially if you're talking about a baby in diapers. Frequent changes are one of the best ways to keep a baby's bottom rash-free.

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), diaper rash is usually caused by:

  • Too much moisture. For example, when dirty diapers are left on for too long.
  • Rubbing and friction. This can happen when diapers are too tight or rub against the skin.
  • Skin contact with urine and feces.
  • An allergic reaction. Baby may be allergic to diaper material or to creams, powders or wipes.

A diaper rash may cause a baby's skin to look red and irritated. In severe cases, pimples, blisters and other sores may appear.

Left untreated, a diaper rash can become infected. The skin may turn bright red and become swollen, and the rash may even spread outside the diaper area.

Rash decisions

The best way to treat diaper rash is to prevent it from starting in the first place, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Here are a few reminders:

  • Check your baby's diaper often. Change it as soon as it's wet or soiled.
  • Let your baby's skin air-dry completely before putting on another diaper.
  • Apply a thick layer of ointment or cream (such as one that contains zinc oxide or petrolatum) to help guard your baby's skin from moisture. These products tend to be thick and pasty. They don't have to be completely removed at the next diaper change.
  • Avoid putting plastic or rubber pants over the diaper; they raise the temperature and moisture level.
  • When bathing your baby, cleanse the diaper area with warm (not hot) water with or without a very mild soap. Pat dry; do not rub.

If your baby does get a diaper rash, try changing the type of wipes, diapers or soap that you use.

The next step

Be sure to call your baby's doctor if a diaper rash:

  • Doesn't get better—or seems to get worse—after a few days of treatment with an over-the-counter cream.
  • Has blisters, large bumps, crusted areas or pus-filled sores.
  • Spreads to other parts of the body, such as the arms, face or scalp.
  • Is accompanied by a fever.

Depending on the cause of the rash, a prescription cream or ointment may be needed.

Reviewed 2/3/2021

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