Health Library
Diaper Rash

What is Diaper Rash?

Diaper rash is a skin problem that develops in the area beneath an infant’s diaper. Diaper rashes are common in babies between 4 to 15 months of age. You may notice the rash more after the infant begins to eat solid foods. The tendency to develop diaper rash typically resolves once the child is toilet trained.

Cause of Diaper Rash

The most common cause of diaper rash is irritation from skin contact with urine and stool. Other causes include:

  • Bacterial or yeast infection of the skin
  • Illnesses that result in increased frequency of bowel movements
  • Illnesses that require treatment with oral antibiotics
  • Eczema or psoriasis

Symptoms of Diaper Rash

A diaper rash may develop gradually or may occur very suddenly depending on the cause. You may notice areas of redness, scaling, pustules and / or sores. Older infants may scratch the affected area when the diaper is removed. Diaper rashes usually do not spread beyond the areas covered by the diaper.

Solutions for Diaper Rash

  • The best way to treat diaper rash is to prevent it. It is very important to keep the diaper area dry and clean. Frequent diaper changes, as well as applying a barrier ointment, such as those containing zinc oxide is helpful. Examples of ointments include A&D, Desitin and Triple Paste.
  • It may be helpful to just use water and a soft cloth or cotton ball to clean the diaper area. Avoid using alcohol-based wipes, which can irritate the infant’s skin.
  • Avoid putting diapers on too tightly. Diapers that are too tight do not allow the skin to “breathe,” and may rub or irritate the infant’s skin.
  • Your healthcare provider may suggest you use a medicated cream or ointment if an infection is suspected.
    • Nystatin, miconazole, clotrimazole and ketaconazole are commonly used medicines for the treatment of diaper rashes caused by yeast.
    • Mupirocin and bacitracin are commonly prescribed for the treatment of bacterial skin infections in the diaper area.
  • Avoid using the following products on your baby’s bottom:
    • Corn starch it can make the diaper rash worse
    • Talcum powder − babies may breathe the powder into their lungs where it can cause breathing problems
  • If you use cloth diapers, do not use fabric softeners or dryer sheets since they may make the rash worse. When washing cloth diapers, rinse the diapers two or three times after washing to remove all traces of laundry detergent.
  • Always wash your hands before and after changing your child’s diaper.

Call Your Child's Doctor If:

  • The diaper rash gets worse or does not improve in two to three days.
  • The rash spreads to the child’s stomach, back, arms or face.
  • You notice boils, ulcers or bleeding in the diaper area.
  • Your child is very uncomfortable or in pain.
  • Your child has a fever (temperature of 100.4 or higher).

Last Updated 08/2023

Reviewed By Nick DeBlasio, MD

Visiting Cincinnati Childrens.

Cincinnati Children’s has primary care services at locations throughout Greater Cincinnati.