Practical advice for new parents

Diaper Rash

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What is diaper rash?

Diaper rash refers to the redness and sometimes flaking of your baby's skin due to the constant rubbing of the diaper (or its contents) against the skin.

Most babies will develop diaper rash to one degree or another at some stage, but diaper rash tends to be more prevalent in babies under one year old. Of course, diaper rash can occur at any time that the child is wearing diapers, but the frequency should taper off as the infant gets older.

What causes diaper rash?

Diaper rash is generally caused by contact between the baby's skin and the diaper. This is generally the result of the diaper being too tight or simply having been left on the baby for too long. Temperature can also contribute to the onset of diaper rash, with heat and moisture exacerbating the problems. When trying to ascertain the causes of your baby's diaper rash, it pays to work backwards. Start by eliminating the most obvious - dirty diapers, cleanliness, moisture etc.), and work your way back through possibilities such as the brands of diapers or soaps that you're using, or even the types of food your baby is eating (perhaps causing diarrhoea).

Is diaper rash dangerous for my baby?

Strictly speaking, diaper rash isn't dangerous for your baby, but it certainly won't be comfortable for him/her. It is also possible for the rash to become infected and get worse, and this can lead to complications that are best avoided (such as a fungal infection). Keep a close eye on any diaper rash that develops and look for any signs of swollenness or other abnormalities. If the rash persists, grows in area, or if you spot any other abnormalities, outside of the usual redness of the skin, then consult your doctor for advice as soon as possible.

How to prevent diaper rash

Try the following suggestions to keep the instances of diaper rash to a minimum, and remember that clean, dry and cool is the way to go for your baby.

  • Change the diaper as often as required (irrespective if it is a 'number one' or a 'number two').

  • When possible, try to let your baby have time without a diaper on. Have a couple of large, soft towels that you can use particularly for this use, and let your baby go without clothes for a while.

  • When changing your baby's diaper, make sure to clean him or her properly and then ensure that the area is completely dry before putting on the clean diaper. Pay particular attention to the creases in your baby's skin, as this is where dirt and moisture can easily get trapped and overlooked.

  • Warm water is best for cleaning your baby's diaper area, but there are also non-perfumed and alcohol-free baby wipes available on the market that are less likely to irritate the skin than regular wipes (be careful not to aggravate with soap any area where the skin may be broken or raw).

  • When drying your baby off, don't rub. Pat your baby dry with a soft towel or cloth.

  • Don't fasten the diaper too tight. It's obviously a fine line between keeping the contents of the diaper in, and letting your baby's skin breathe a little, but a diaper that is too tight will undoubtedly lead to diaper rash.

  • Try different types of diapers to see if some are less likely to induce diaper rash than others. Each baby's shape is different, so some diapers fit some babies better. There is no hard information to suggest that either disposable diapers are better over cotton diapers or vice-versa, so just go with what you prefer.

  • Experiment with all the products that you use for your baby, right down to the detergent you use to wash his or her clothes. A baby's skin is extremely sensitive, so keep this in mind when selecting products to care for your baby. Go for products that purport to be mild in nature.

  • Use barrier creams (such as Vaseline) if your baby gets rashes often. These help to reduce the friction between the diaper and the skin as well as preventing moisture from irritating the skin.

In most cases, diaper rash takes a couple of days or so to disappear if the cause of the rash is removed. If you find that the rash persists (even after the use of over-the-counter medications), and particularly if the rash becomes worse or spreads, then consult your doctor for advice. There are a number of prescription medications that your doctor can provide.

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