Dealing with Diaper Rash

Diaper rash is also known as nappy rash or irritant contact diaper dermatitis (phew! that's a real tongue-twister). It is the most common skin problem for newborns. In fact, many newborns show some mild rash in the first week.

Whatever you choose to call it, this skin condition has caused a lot of distress to both parents and babies. I hope the nformation on these pages help you understand how to prevent and manage this condition.

First, let's talk about the causes of diaper rash. It is triggered by irritants in the diaper area.

A key irritant is moisture from urine and bowel motions, and enzymes that are present in feces. When a baby's skin is in prolonged contact with these substances, it breaks down.

Wearing diapers increases the skin's ph level, and this makes the destructive enzymes stronger. Children are more at risk of getting diaper rash in the first 2 years when they are still in diapers.

I know it's cold comfort when your child's bottom is sore and inflamed, but this too will pass once he or she is toilet trained.

Besides moisture in the diaper area, other irritants can cause a baby's skin to develop a rash.

Some culprits are dyes and glue used in manufacturing diapers, the friction caused when diapers rub against baby's skin and some baby care products (these aren't always kind to babies' skin).

Infections can also cause diaper dermatitis. Yeast infections (Candida albicans) may be present in children with a rash that has lasted for more than 3 days. Bacteria, viruses and parasites can also cause irritation in the diaper area.

Sometimes, rashes are triggered by ingredients used in making diapers. Allergic contact dermatitis is when skin develops a rash within 12 to 24 hours of being exposed to a sensitizer.

Some examples of sensitizers are dyes, fragrances, rubber and other chemicals used in diaper manufacturing as well as preservatives in some toilet tissues.

So much for the causes of diaper rash. Now it's time to talk about prevention.

To prevent inflammation in the diaper area, change the baby frequently - newborn babies and babies who have diarrhea need changing more frequently.

Use warm water and cotton wool to clean the baby's bottom. Some commercial "baby wipes" contain alcohol, fragrances and other ingredients that can cause a reaction in some babies.

If you must use wipes, choose the ones without fragrance or preservatives. They're much safer and kinder to baby skin. For a baby that has eczema (atopic dermatitis), only use products that have few ingredients - the simpler the better.

In the old days, and maybe even today, some people used corn starch or talcum powder to absorb moisture in the diaper area and to prevent inflammation.

This may work, but there is a risk that the baby will inhale these products. Babies have developed severe pneumonia just from inhaling talcum powder or cornstarch.

But what if your baby already has diaper rash? Here's what you can do to treat it. As soon as you notice any signs that the baby's skin is becoming irritated, take steps to prevent it getting worse.

I applied a herbal aloe gel to my son's skin if I noticed even a slight redness around his bottom. I would apply the same gel every time I changed him until there were no longer any signs of irritation in the diaper area. I think it worked because he only developed a full-blown diaper rash a couple of times.

Wearing diapers continuously is at the root of the problem. That's probably why the advice is often given to let your baby go diaper-free as much as possible.

This may sound simple, but it isn't really practical. Most parents know that, of course. Makes you wonder whether the people who dispense that piece of advice have actually practised what they preached. But I digress...

Back to the subject of how to deal with diaper rash once it's developed. First, change diapers frequently to keep the baby's skin as dry as possible.

Also avoid tight-fitting diapers and use a slightly larger size to reduce contact between baby's skin and waste products.

Many people swear by a barrier product that they apply to the baby's skin after every diaper change. The barrier ointment or paste is supposed to reduce friction and protect the broken skin from irritants.

The most recommended barrier products are usually thick, greasy and sticky. I didn't use these myself, because the aloe gel worked for my son.

Cleaning habits are important when you're dealing with diaper rash. It's important to wash your hands before and after each change to prevent infection.

It also helps to give your child a lukewarm bath every day, taking care to use a simple and non-irritating cleanser (remember, that's not necessarily a "baby" product). Clean the diaper area gently and avoid rubbing.

Sometimes mild corticosteroids are used to treat diaper rash. If you choose this option (and it is a choice, even if your health care provider recommends it), you need to be aware of a few things.

A mild corticosteroid like hydrocortisone 1% ointment should only be used for a short while. Stronger corticosteroids should never be used in the diaper area because of the possible side effects.

Bottom line? Knowing what causes diaper rash and taking steps to prevent it (or nip it in the bud once it's started), is the best way to deal with this common skin problem.

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