Irritant Diaper Dermatitis

What is Irritant Diaper Dermatitis?

Irritant diaper dermatitis refers to skin rashes present in the diaper area and is very common among infants and toddlers.

The main cause is feces and urine that irritates the skin but can also be caused by the yeast infection Candida, Seborrhea, nutritional and immune deficiencies, metabolic disorders, diapers that are too tight or rub the skin, reaction to soaps used to clean cloth diapers, or child abuse. Diaper rash is common among infants between the ages of four and fifteen months of age.

What are the Symptoms of Irritant Diaper Dermatitis?

Symptoms include: scaly and very red areas on the penis and scrotum in boys, scaly or red areas on the vagina and labia in girls, bright red rash in the diaper area that gets bigger, pimples, blisters, and ulcers.

Irritant Diaper Dermatitis Causes

Irritant diaper dermatitis generally develops when a baby’s skin is wet for a prolonged period of time. This coupled with exposure to urine and feces increases the pH of the outer layer of skin, which in turn causes it to break down.

There are several factors that can increase the likelihood of this happening. Chafing or rubbing can damage the skin and speed up the process. Irritation can also be caused by an allergic reaction to baby products.

There is also a strong connection between the baby’s gut health and developing the condition. In the gut, there are good bacteria and yeasts which keep the bad ones in check. If a child needs to go on antibiotics, they can wipe out the good bacteria as well. This can allow the bad bacteria to take over. This imbalance can also occur as the child switches to solid food.

How is Irritant Diaper Dermatitis Treated?

The best treatment is to make sure that the baby’s skin is kept dry and clean by changing diapers frequently, using water and a soft cloth to clean the diaper area, avoiding the use of wipes that contain alcohol or perfumes, utilizingabsorbent diapers to keep the skin clean and dry, washing hands before and after changing a diaper, and using petroleum jelly-based products and zinc oxide to keep moisture away from the infant’s skin by applying it to skin that is completely dry and clean. It’s important to keep the baby out of diapers as much as possible.

Irritant Diaper Dermatitis Prevention

There are many ways to help prevent diaper rash.

The simplest is simply making sure the baby’s diaper is changed as soon as it needs to be. This prevents the buildup of moisture and bad bacteria.

There are also several things that can be done during changing to help reduce the risk. Rinsing the baby’s bottom with warm water with each change will wash away many of the bad bacteria and yeasts, helping to prevent the rash from developing. This can be done in the sink or tub or even just with a towel. Once you’re done, be sure to gently pat the area dry. Be careful not to scrub as this can cause irritation to develop. Make sure diapers aren’t over tightened as well. Tight diapers prevent airflow which helps with drying.

Allowing your baby to spend time outside of a diaper will also reduce the chance of the rash forming. To prevent accidents, they can be put out on a large towel.

Breast feeding has also been shown to reduce the risk of diaper rash developing when compared to feeding on formula. Feed the baby on breast milk when possible.

Zinc oxide based creams have been shown to be effective in both the treatment and prevention of the rash as well.

Many believe that disposable diapers help prevent diaper rash more than reusable cloth diapers. However, there are many studies showing this is not the case.

Last Reviewed:
September 14, 2016
Last Updated:
March 14, 2018
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