How do I care for a toddler or infant with diaper rash?

Deborah Mulligan
Deborah Mulligan on behalf of MDLIVE
If your baby develops a diaper rash, use plain warm water to clean the area.  Gently pat your baby’s bottom dry with a soft clean towel.  Change the diaper frequently and immediately after every bowel movement or wet diaper.  If you can time things such that the baby just finished urinating or passing a stool let their clean bottom air dry naturally by leaving the bottom uncovered as much as possible.  Try an over-the-counter diaper rash ointment without hydrocortisone to soothe and protect the irritated area.

If after a few days of applying these simple measures, there is no improvement, consult your pediatrician or family doctor.
Your child’s doctor will talk with you about specific care for your child. Some general guidelines to follow include:
  • Rub on a special cream or ointment as directed by your child’s doctor (continue to use the cream or ointment for 48 hours after the rash has cleared).
  • Let the diaper area get air whenever possible.
  • Change your child’s diaper often and clean the diaper area well.
  • Check your baby wipes and diapers. Some contain alcohol, perfumes or other chemicals that may irritate the skin.
  • If using disposable diapers, try a different brand or try cloth diapers.
  • Do not use cornstarch products.
The proper procedure for treating diaper rash is discussed in this video from Discovery Health.
Give care for diaper rash in toddlers and infants by applying a thick layer of over-the-counter zinc oxide or petroleum jelly to the affected area.

This creates a barrier between the infant’s delicate skin and the urine or feces.
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
The best way to treat and prevent diaper rash is to create a barrier between skin and the offending poop and pee: Petroleum jelly/zinc oxide, Desitin, Balmex, Pinxav, and Boudreaux's Butt Paste will all do the trick. Just be sure to dry the area completely first. You can use a hair dryer (on low heat), too.

Let your child run around without diapers and, if he doesn't poop at night, let him sleep without diapers. (Just make certain that you have a plastic cover for the crib mattress.) Things we don't recommend include baby wipes (they're wet and if used too much, they can make rash worse); corn starch (can keep skin dry, but talcum powder is harmful if inhaled); baking soda (also keeps area dry, but can feed a yeast infection and be harmful if absorbed by skin).
Diaper rash in a toddler or infant can be treated and prevented by using thick layers of diaper cream, preferably with zinc as an ingredient. Typical diaper rash is caused by irritation from pee or poop touching the skin. The thickness of the cream prevents the skin from getting wet, even if the diaper is dirty. Occasionally a medication is needed, so if a diaper rash is hard to control, talk to your child's doctor.
Caroline D. Piggott, MD
Despite all your best efforts, some diaper rashes need medical attention. If the rash is persistent, you see areas where the skin is eroded or your baby seems to be in pain, see your pediatrician or dermatologist. Sometimes there can be infection with yeast, bacteria or fungus, or your doctor may recommend treatment with a low-potency topical inflammatory medication.

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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.