Many mothers panic when they discover that their newborn has a rash on the bottom, genitals and upper thighs. But diaper rash is very common. It is not usually a serious skin disorder and often resolves on its own with a few simple measures. However, there are instances where untreated and severe diaper rash can have serious consequences. But this is largely preventable. Diaper rash is not a poor reflection on the part of the mother, nanny or caregiver. Even the most conscientious mother may be unable to prevent diaper rash entirely. However, there are several ways to reduce the chances of your baby developing diaper rash and to help it resolve as soon as possible.
Why does diaper rash occur?
Diaper rash is the most common skin rash in newborns. It affects as many as 1 out of 3 infants in the first 2 years of life but less than 10% of cases are reported to a medical practitioner. There are several reasons why diaper rash occurs, many of which are preventable.
- Skin irritation caused by exposure to stool and feces. Short term exposure does not usually cause any significant skin irritation.
- Reaction to diapers, disposable wipes and fabric of the baby’s clothing. Sometimes even the detergent used for washing the clothes may be a problem.
- Pre-existing atopic dermatitis (eczema) aggravated by a host of factors.
- Skin infections caused by bacteria of fungi, particularly yeasts.
- Diarrhea due to any cause which means that the skin is exposed to a watery stool more often than usual.
- Antibiotic use, either by the baby or mother, affects the normal bacterial population and promotes yeast overgrowth.
- Chaffing caused by diapers or clothing.
Frequently Change Diapers
One of the most effective and important measures to prevent diaper rash is to ensure regular diaper changes. It is important to keep monitoring your baby’s diapers. Any sign of urine or stool should prompt an immediate diaper change. It does not matter if the diaper has a drying gel or is not yet completely soaked or soiled. Even just a few extra minutes of exposing the skin to stool and urine can be sufficient to irritate the skin, leading to irritant contact dermatitis. Remember that stool is laden with bacteria that may be harmless in the bowel but can quickly infect the skin.
Using Disposable Wipes
Simply wiping your baby’s bottom is not good enough. Ideally you would want to rinse soiled area even if you are not bathing baby. But this is not always possible. Disposable wipes have been the saving grace in this regard. These moist wipes allow for thorough cleaning even while on the go. The liquid used in wipes are usually hypoallergenic solutions and not just water alone. It helps to thoroughly clean the area and dries rapidly to ensure that there is no residual moisture on the skin. Wipe the baby’s bottom thoroughly with a disposable wipe and use a paper napkin to dry the area before putting on a new clean diaper. If disposable wipes are not an option for you, then use a small spray bottle to rinse baby’s skin between changes. Remember to dry the area thoroughly.
Change The Brand of Diaper
Different manufacturers use different materials to make diapers although most diapers are largely the same in composition. If one brand of diapers seems to be the problem, then try to changing to another brand. Do not get misled by the advice of family or friends and marketing campaigns. Your baby is an individual and may react to even the most popular diaper brand which is said to be the least likely to contribute to diaper rash. Experiment with different brands of diapers if you have followed all the other preventative measures but the rash persists. Even if you have a preference for one diaper brand after having used it for your other kids – what works for one baby may not work for another.
Avoid Heavily Scented Skin Items
Be it body lotion, disposable wipes or even diapers, strong fragrances may contain chemicals that can irritate the skin – especially a baby’s delicate skin. Manufacturers are careful to use hypoallergenic materials even though it has a pleasant smell but some babies are more sensitive than others. Rather avoid heavily scented products and opt for those with very mild or no scents, especially if your baby has a persistent diaper rash despite using products labeled as hypoallergenic. It is also advisable to purchase products from reputable manufacturers with an established history in baby care products.
Allow The Skin To Air
Imagine wearing thick padded underwear all day and night? It would be uncomfortable and impede ventilation of the skin surface. The same happens when your baby wears a diaper all the time. Let your baby’s bottom air without a diaper as often as possible. There is no reason to immediately put another diaper after having removed the previous one unless you are on the go. Even after bathing, a few minutes with baby’s bottom exposed to air can be very helpful for good skin health. Ventilating baby’s bottom allows the skin to dry thoroughly and helps maintain the natural environment of the skin surface. There is a risk of messing so leave baby on a large towel to avoid soiling the area.
Moisturize and Protect the Skin
Although one of the main problems with diaper rash is the dampness from urine, stool and even sweat, good skin care requires the use of a moisturizer. Choose a moisturizer that is hypoallergenic and preferably unscented. Moisturize the skin thoroughly after bathing but ensure that all the water is thoroughly patted dry and baby’s bottom has some time to air before applying a moisturizer. When it comes to dampness, even the best diapers on the market may not keep baby’s skin 100% dry and spare it from urine, stool and sweat. A barrier cream may be helpful, especially on the areas of the skin where the rash is present. The skin may not be able to naturally maintain its waterproof barrier function and a barrier cream is therefore needed.