What Causes Diaper Rash?

by Caroline Piggott, MD

Scripps dermatologist, Dr. Caroline Piggot, discusses understanding diaper rash causes and care.

by Caroline Piggott, MD

Diaper rash is not a failure of parenting; it’s just a fact of life. As hard as you work to prevent it, babies will sometimes get a little irritation. However, by understanding its causes, you can do more to prevent it and mitigate the effects when it does happen.

Diaper rash has many potential causes: prolonged exposure to a wet diaper, chafing from the diaper, infections, allergic reactions and/or dermatitis. The condition is more prevalent in babies between eight and 10 months, around the time they start eating solid foods.

The best solution is vigilance. Try to check your baby’s diaper as often as is practical. Preferably, when cleaning a dirty bottom, use a gentle wash cloth with lukewarm water to avoid irritation. Avoid soap, if possible, and if soap is used, fragrance-free brands are best. Baby wipes can be very irritating due to the fragrance and the alcohol content. Diaper pastes can be helpful to add an extra barrier of protection. Desitin and Triple Paste AF are excellent brands.

Despite all your best efforts, some diaper rashes need medical attention. If the rash is persistent, you see areas where the skin is eroded or your baby seems to be in pain, consider seeing your pediatrician or dermatologist. Sometimes there can be infection with yeast, bacteria or fungus, or your doctor may recommend treatment with a low potency topical inflammatory medication.

This Scripps Health and Wellness tip was provided by Caroline Piggott, MD, an adult and pediatric dermatologist at Scripps Clinic in San Diego.