Can Diapers Cause Diaper Rash?

  • By: Karen Morgan
  • Time to read: 6 min.

There is really nothing worse than finding an angry red rash on your baby’s skin, and most parents agonize over the cause; was it a change in baby’s diet, an allergic reaction, or something else? Can diapers cause diaper rash?

The truth is that there are a massive number of possible explanations for the painful inflamed skin in baby’s diaper area. Let’s take a look at what might be causing baby’s diaper rash so you can decide if diapers are the culprit.

What Is Diaper Rash?

Diaper rash is a very common cause of skin irritation in babies who wear diapers- and it affects babies whether they wear cloth diapers or disposable diapers.

Diaper rash can look different depending on the cause, but might present as: red, angry looking skin, blisters, red spots or red, inflamed patches of skin or flaky skin.

Diaper rash might be painful, itchy, or both.

Tell Me The Cause of Diaper Rash?

Most diaper rashes are caused by overexposure to urine or stool.

Babies spend the majority of their time wearing diapers- unfortunately, the moist environment of the diaper is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, fungal infection and irritation that causes diaper rash. The acidic climate of the nappy will irritate your baby’s skin, possibly causing the skin to break.

Occasionally, bacterial or fungal infection may set in, and you might need a prescription antibiotic cream or antifungal cream to treat the rash.

Tight diapers can also encourage diaper rash- make sure to choose a size suitable for your little one’s size and activity levels.

Baby’s rash should normally clear up within 3-4 days. If diaper rash does not improve, if the rash spreads or if the irritation gets worse, call the doctor.

Changing diapers frequently is the best way of preventing diaper rash.

What Does Diaper Rash Look Like?

Diaper rash, or diaper dermatitis, is a red, inflamed rash on the baby’s legs or genital area.

It may be mild to severe, and often covers much of the diaper area. Always treat diaper rash promptly- delaying can make diaper rash worse, leading to blistering pimples or sores opening up to release fluid or pus in some cases.

When you wash your newborn baby’s diapers and wipe the baby’s skin, you might notice that the irritated skin becomes very red and your little one may cry due to discomfort.

How do I Prevent Diaper Rash?

The best way to prevent diaper rash is properly and regularly cleaning the diaper area.

A layer or petroleum jelly at diaper change time can help protect your baby’s sensitive skin from irritation. Ensure that diaper changes are frequent- every 2 hours maximum, and always immediately after a soiled diaper.

Clean your baby’s bottom, ideally using cloth wipes or cotton wool; use a soft cloth and warm water to clean skin gently and pat dry.

At the first sign or any skin irritation, allow your baby some time without a diaper; this will soothe skin and lets baby’s skin dry completely before you apply a thick layer of diaper cream.

If you use cloth diapers, wash diapers at 40 degrees minimum, using a mild detergent and no fabric softeners. These are too harsh for your baby’s sensitive skin and are completely unnecessary.

Introduce solid foods one at a time so that any food trigger that may lead to diaper rash is easily identified.

What Cures Diaper Rash Fast?

The best way to get rid of diaper rash is by keeping your newborn’s diaper as clean as possible; a wet or dirty diaper should be changed immediately. When diaper rash occurs, it is even more important to change diapers more frequently.

Be aware of any products that might be causing irritation to your baby’s bottom; a scented baby powder or new dryer sheets, their disposable diaper or baby wipes, or a new laundry detergent might make baby’s skin sore.

Diaper rash treatment will depend on the cause; in more severe cases, a mild steroid cream, antifungal or antibiotic cream may be needed. See your doctor to eliminate a bacterial or yeast infection as the cause.

Can diapers cause diaper rash? A good diaper cream can help soothe irritation.

For mild cases, applying diaper cream at each change can help. There’s two kinds: petroleum-based products (such as A&D ointment) and those with zinc-oxide (such as Desitin or Balmer). All baby bottoms differ. Try to decide which diapers rash cream will best treat or prevent rashes.

Check in with your baby’s doctor if the rash persists.

How Can You Tell If a Baby is Allergic to Diapers?

It can be very difficult to pinpoint the cause of your baby’s sensitive skin, however diaper rash caused by an allergy to diapers often covers the whole of the nappy area, appearing red and inflamed, sometimes with oozing sores and blisters.

Disposable diapers include lots of ingredients that can irritate skin, so it’s no surprise that some baby’s don’t react well. If your baby is allergic, you’ll find that treating diaper rash simply won’t help- the only thing that will help, will be swapping to a different brand or to cloth diapers. Normal diaper rashes should improve within a few days.

Baby wipes can also be an issue, so a good first step is to swap to a soft cloth and water instead of wipes. These are much more mild for the sensitive skin on your baby’s bottom.

Can Babies Suddenly Become Allergic to Diapers?

Most parents of babies with diaper allergy report that the skin issue persisted for several months before they determined the cause- however, a reaction can develop out of the blue, and often progressively gets worse when the trigger is not identified and removed.

Some parents find that a change in brand is enough to trigger a reaction.

Which Diaper is Best for Diaper Rash?

The best diaper for your little one is the one that works best for your little one and your family. If the brand you’ve been using isn’t working, change diapers. There are lots of brands to pick from!

Usually, if you keep your baby’s bottom dry with a regular diaper change routine, the brand won’t much matter. However, if you feel that your little one is sensitive or allergic, you will need to exercise some trial and error to work out the best diaper for him or her.

Some research suggests that cloth diapered babies are less likely to develop diaper rash than those who wear disposables.

Can Changing Diapers Help With Diaper Rash?

This depends entirely on the cause of the rash, however, if your child is allergic to diapers, swapping to a cloth diaper can bring about drastic improvement in mere days.

If, however, your child is suffering with a yeast infection, changing diaper brand or to cloth diapers will make no difference.

No matter what type of diaper you use for your little one, always change dirty or wet diapers immediately to reduce the risk of rash.

When to call the doctor about baby diaper rash?

If you’re worries about a rash in baby’s diaper area, follow the simple steps above to treat the rash at home. If however you see no improvement, if the rash spreads or gets worse, it’s a good idea to check in with your baby’s doctor.

Remember that they are there to help and won’t mind you getting in touch to check that everything is OK

The Bottom Line

Diaper rash is incredibly common, particularly in infants aged 4-15 months. While parents often stress about the cause of the rash, most often, diaper rash can be safely treated at home and clears up quickly with a little extra care.

The most common cause of diaper rash is infrequent nappy changes, however, some children do experience diaper rash as a symptom of diaper rash allergy.

As ever, if you are concerned, check in with your family doctor.

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Cloth Diapers