What is diaper rash?

Diaper rash basically means any skin irritation, regardless of cause that develops in the diaper-covered region. Though diaper rash is very common to infants and toddlers, it can also occur in adults who are unable to routinely wash the genital area, or any individual wearing a diaper (for example, an incontinent adult).


What causes diaper rash?

The majority of diaper rashes are caused by skin irritation, where the baby’s skin is constantly exposed to a variety of irritating substances. The most common irritants are urine, stool, bacteria from urine and stool, detergents, perfumes, plastics and dyes from single use disposable diapers, pre-moistened baby wipes, and soaps. Some babies will become irritated by a particular diaper or baby wipe.

Chafing dermatitis (diaper chafing): This is the most common form of diaper rash, which can make the genital area and folds of the thighs & buttocks appear red and puffy. Diaper chafing or the baby being in a wet and dirty diaper for too much time causes this type of rash. This type of rash generally comes and goes, causing little discomfort as long as it’s not complicated by a secondary infection.

Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema): This type of rash shows up as red scaly patches on the legs and in the groin area. This rash may turn up in other parts of the body first while spreading to the diaper area between 6 and 12 months of age.  Atopic dermatitis can be caused by many things including allergens, irritants, environmental and hereditary factors.

Candidal dermatitis (yeast infection): This type of rash is usually tender and painful, appearing in the folds of the baby’s genitals, legs and the creases between the abdomen and thighs. This rash will start as small red spots that become more numerous and then form together as a raised bright red rash with distinct edges. The most common cause of this type of rash is a baby that is taking or has been taking antibiotics.

Perianal dermatitis: This type of rash appears as a bright to dark redness around the anus. The stools of bottle fed babies being more alkaline than normal are sometimes the cause it.  This rash will usually not appear with breast fed babies until after solids are introduced.

Seborrheic dermatitis (cradle cap): This rash will appear as a deep red rash that is rough, raised and often has yellowish scales. This type of rash usually starts on the scalp as cradle cap, although it can sometimes begin in the diaper region and then its spreads upward. This rash is usually caused by overactive oil glands in the skin.

Impetigo: This type of rash can appear as yellow-brown crusty patches or pus filled pimples or blisters, which is usually accompanied by a lot of surrounding redness. This rash can cover the buttocks, lower abdomen, anus, umbilical cord, and thighs and then spread to other parts of the body. Impetigo is caused by bacteria (streptococci or staphylococci). If you think your baby’s rash is a bacterial infection, be sure and notify your doctor immediately. Your doctor will most likely prescribe a topical or oral antibiotic.

Tidemark dermatitis: This rash is an irritation that occurs from the edges or bindings of a diaper rubbing against the skin.

Intertrigo: This rash will appear as a reddened area, which occurs as a result of skin rubbing on skin. It is usually found in the folds between the thighs and abdomen and sometimes in the armpits.

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