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Nappy rash and irritation

Nappy rash is very common in babies in their first 18 months.

It can be caused by irritation to the skin from:

  • The nappy rubbing and chafing
  • Being left too long between nappy changes and being in contact with wee and poo
  • Sensitivity to their soap, detergent, bubble bath or baby wipes.

Close-up of infant with diaper rash

Treatment for nappy rash caused by irritation

  • Check the nappy frequently, and change it when wet.
  • Use a gentle perfume-free soap or even just plain water when cleaning the area. Make sure the nappy area is quite dry before putting on a fresh nappy.
  • Avoid wipes with fragrance or alcohol.
  • Let your baby's bottom get some air. There is nothing better to dry out the area than leaving the nappy off for a while after cleaning up a dirty nappy.
  • Consider changing the brand or type of nappy.
  • Keep the nappies a bit loose so some air can come in and the area can breathe. Avoid plastic pants, which hold the moisture in.
  • Use a protective barrier cream or ointment on the area after each nappy change. In general, those with zinc oxide give the best protection from irritation (but are a bit stickier). However, the less sticky petroleum products often work well.

When to seek medical advice

It is usually not necessary to see a doctor for a simple nappy rash. Keeping the nappy area clean and dry should prevent most nappy rashes. However, even the best prevention is sometimes not enough.

You should seek medical advice immediately if your baby develops severely inflamed skin, or a fever.

Self-care at home

Proper skin care is one of the most important treatments for nappy rash. The following techniques may help alleviate or shorten the duration of nappy rash.

  • Nappies should be changed more often than normal.
  • Skin should be washed with a very mild soap and air dried or lightly patted dry.
  • The skin should be cleaned, but avoid any rough scrubbing, which could lead to further skin irritation. After cleaning, the skin should be exposed to air, leaving the nappy off for several hours if possible.
  • Avoid using plastic pants during this time.
  • Certain foods may seem to worsen the rash. If this is the case, avoid these foods until the rash has cleared.
  • If the rash is caused by a contact or allergic dermatitis, stop using any new soaps or detergents that may be causing the rash.
  • If the rash appears to be caused by a candida infection, seek medical advice about using antifungal creams.
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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on August 14, 2013

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