Nappy Rash: Baby's Enemy Number One

Are you worried about your baby's nappy rash?

You're not alone. I've been there too.

It's the most common skin problem in babies. At least half of all babies less than 12 months develop nappy rash at some stage. The condition usually lasts for 2 to 3 days, on average.

So what causes this worrying condition? A few things.

For a start, the wetness and warmth of nappies (or diapers) can make the skin a less effective barrier against irritants.

Exposure to urine and feces also weakens the skin and makes it easier for it to be irritated. The skin becomes more fragile when it is wet and when this is combined with friction in the nappy area, the result is damaged skin.

So what does nappy rash look like? Common signs are redness (but not in darker skinned babies), dryness, scaly, raised or shiny patches or rashes. Some of these signs also occur in other skin conditions like eczema (atopic dermatitis) and psoriasis.

When treating nappy rash, focus on your cleansing routine. Give your baby a bath once or twice every day. Change their nappy more often and make it fit loosely to allow enough air flow.

It's also a good idea not to use baby wipes containing alcohol or fragrance. Would you use wipes like that on your own skin - you know, down there? I think we both know the answer to that one.

The jury's still out on whether cloth nappies or disposable nappies are better at keeping babies' skin from getting irritated.

At least one study has found that some types of super-absorbent nappies increased the risk of nappy or diaper rash. I used cloth nappies (with fleece liners) for several months and my son had a rash only a couple of times. Go figure!

Many people will say you should let the baby have some nappy-free time to let the skin breathe.

That's all very well, but do those who give this advice have any tips for managing the extra work this will create for you? I don't think so.

If nappy rash persists, even after following a good cleansing routine, there are other things you can try. Like applying corn starch to the rashes. This is an old remedy that your grandmother may have used and some parents still use. But some people say it can make the problem worse.

Another remedy I've read about is camomile tea - this is for yeast diaper dermatitis. Here's how one mother uses it. She washes the affected area with cooled camomile tea and pats the skin dry. Then she applies Canesten cream followed by a barrier cream containing zinc oxide and talc.

There's also hydrocortisone cream and other medicines. These all have potential side effects, especially on a baby's skin because it's sensitive.

My own favorite, however, is aloe vera gel. I used when my son had diaper rash (it worked everytime) and even when he didn't. As soon as I noticed his skin was becoming irritated, I splashed the gel on and it repaired his skin. I'm telling you, that aloe gel saved my son's butt!

Moral of the story: there are many ways to treat diaper dermatitis (the fancy name for you know what). Different strokes for different folks.

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