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First Aid: Diaper Rash

First Aid

Diaper rash is a common skin condition in babies. Usually, the rash is due to irritation caused by the diaper and moisture, but it can have other causes.

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Diaper Rash?

Most diaper rashes are caused by irritation of the skin from contact with pee, poop, and sweat. Sometimes babies get a diaper rash from an allergy to a type of diaper or fragrances in laundry detergent, fabric softener, soap, or wipes.

Signs of diaper rash caused by irritation or allergy include:

  • soreness
  • redness where the diaper touches the skin
  • peeling
  • scaly skin
  • fussiness

Rashes also can be caused by a skin infection due to yeast or bacteria. If the rash is due to an infection, signs may include:

  • red bumps
  • a red area with red bumps spreading from it
  • red areas in the creases (where skin touches other skin)
  • blisters or open sores
  • pus-filled sores
  • fluid seeping from red areas

What to Do

  • Try to keep the skin dry.
  • Whenever possible, let your baby spend time without a diaper. Put your baby in a crib with a waterproof mattress cover or on a towel on the floor. 
  • Check the diaper often and change it as soon as it is wet or soiled.
  • With each diaper change:
    • Wash your baby's diaper area gently with warm water. When your baby has a diaper rash, try to avoid soaps and baby wipes (these can irritate sore skin).
    • Let the skin dry fully. Then apply a diaper ointment or paste that contains zinc oxide (such as such as Desitin, Triple Paste, Balmex, or a store brand).

diaper rash illustration

Get Medical Care If:

  • the diaper rash doesn't get better after several days
  • there are pimples, blisters, or open sores in the diaper area
  • your baby has diarrhea with a fever or looks dehydrated
  • pus is draining from the rash
  • your child seems very uncomfortable
  • your child has a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher

Think Prevention!

The best way to prevent diaper rash is to keep your baby's skin as dry and clean as possible. Change diapers often so pee and poop won't irritate the skin. Also:

  • Use diaper ointment or paste with every diaper change.
  • If you use baby wipes, be sure they're fragrance-free.
  • If you use cloth diapers, wash them in dye- and fragrance-free detergent and do not use fabric softener or dryer sheets.

Reviewed by: Melanie L. Pitone, MD
Date Reviewed: Jun 20, 2022

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