How can I prevent diaper rash?

To prevent diaper rash and help it to heal:
  • Keep the area as dry as possible by changing wet or soiled diapers immediately.
  • Clean the area with water and a soft washcloth. Avoid wipes that can dry the child’s skin.
  • Pat the skin dry or let it air dry.
  • Keep the diaper loose so wet and soiled parts do not rub against the skin.
Deborah Mulligan
Deborah Mulligan on behalf of MDLIVE
A baby's skin is very sensitive, particularly during the first 6-months. Ammonia, which is naturally present in the urine, as well as illness and diarrhea, can all act as a trigger for diaper rash. Some babies are more prone to it than others, but the majority of babies will have diaper rash at some stage. Fortunately, skin heals very quickly, and with proper treatment the rash should disappear within a few days or a week at most. Yeast infection may cause a diaper rash. Yeast likes growing in dark, moist areas. A diaper rash caused by yeast will require frequent diaper changes and application of an anti-fungal agent for successful treatment.

To help prevent or treat diaper rash, you can apply an emollient zinc oxide cream or petroleum jelly with each diaper change. Diaper rash creams form a barrier between the irritated skin and the offending agents of urine and stool. Avoid using powders. These can be inhaled by the baby into his/her lungs when it is shaken out of the container.
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
It is helpful to know some ways to keep your baby's bottom irritation-free. Watch this video as Dr. Mike Roizen and Dr. Ellen Rome discuss things you can do to prevent diaper rash.
Change your child’s diaper as soon as possible after he wets or has a bowel movement. Gently wash and dry your child’s bottom and all skin folds.
    The diaper cream you choose will depend on the type of diaper rash your baby has. In the first week of life, diaper rashes are often simply due to irritation from wetness. Applying a barrier cream that contains zinc oxide (such as Desitin or Balmex) is generally best for creating a barrier between a baby’s sensitive skin and irritants, but even a thin layer of petroleum jelly (as found in Vaseline, Aquaphor, or A&D ointment) can work well in preventing many common newborn rashes (not to mention help in making stool easier to wipe off!). If, however, your baby has a rash that is bright reddish pink and raised or sometimes raw, often with little bumps surrounding it, chances are you’re looking at a yeast infection. In such cases, you will need a special yeast cream. Whenever your baby’s diaper rash doesn’t improve after a few days with the cream of your choice, or if you have questions about how to best treat it in the first place, be sure to have your pediatrician check it out.

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    To help prevent diaper rash:
    • Change diapers more often. Wipe with plain water, not scented wipes.
    • Let your baby go without a diaper as much as possible. The air is good for your baby's skin.
    • Use diaper cream. You can buy this in the baby section of the store.
    Caroline D. Piggott, MD

    The best prevention for diaper rash is vigilance. Try to check your baby’s diaper as often as it is practical. Preferably, when cleaning a dirty bottom, use a gentle washcloth with lukewarm water to avoid irritation. Avoid soap, if possible, and if soap is used, fragrance-free brands are best. Baby wipes can be very irritating due to the fragrance and the alcohol content. Diaper pastes can be helpful to add an extra barrier of protection. Desitin and Triple Paste AF are excellent brands.

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    Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.