So many parents have been asking me for some rational tips on diaper rashes. Let me see if I can do more than just “skin the surface” with a few pointers.

All babies will get a diaper rash at some time or another. Diaper rash is not a sign of poor parenting. It happens for a few reasons. It can be irritation from bowel movements or urine, or skin irritation from a new cream or lotion. It can also be due to a bacterial or yeast infection, or simply chafing.

The good news is that diaper rashes are generally easy to treat. A common treatment is to use an over-the-counter diaper ointment that will protect the skin. Examples include petroleum jelly or zinc oxide. These ointments prevent moisture from urine or bowel movements from getting through to the skin and causing a rash.

If the rash appears in creases near the groin, you may need an antifungal or antibacterial prescription ointment. This will require a chat with your child’s health care professional, who can help diagnose all types of rashes.

The best way to deal with a diaper rash is to prevent one from occurring. I have a few suggestions that can help:

  1. Change diapers often. In doing so, wipe and don’t scrub the bottom with a soft cloth. After doing this, rinse baby’s bottom with warm water rather than disposable wipes. Some wipes contain alcohol and perfumes that can irritate the skin. Wash your hands before and after changing diapers so germs don’t spread.
  2. Avoid tight-fitting diapers, which do not allow air to dry up the moisture or can cause chafing and irritation. Be aware that there is no strong evidence that one type of diaper is better than another. (This includes cloth and disposable.)
  3. When possible, let your baby go bare-bottomed. Place them on a large towel in the buff. Then allow them some time at home in their birthday suit or in a very loosely fitted diaper. That may be all it takes to prevent a diaper rash or speed up the healing of a rash.

Have your baby’s health care professional look at the rash if it meets these descriptions:

  • Lasts for more than 2-3 days
  • Coincides with fever, blisters, or pus
  • Involves groin creases
  • Or if you are simply concerned in any way

Hopefully, tips like these will give you the bottom line when it comes to protecting your child from diaper rash.

Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont.  You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and MyNBC 5, or visit the “First with Kids” video archives at www.UVMHealth.org/MedCenterFirstWithKids.

Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont.

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