Symptoms and Signs of Diaper Rash

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 1/20/2022

Doctor's Notes on Diaper Rash

Diaper rash is inflammation of the skin under a diaper. It usually occurs in children under 2 years of age but can occur in adults with incontinence and/or paralyzed patients. Signs and symptoms include a red rash that may cover part or all of the buttocks, genitalia, and possibly the skin folds. In some patients with a skin condition (seborrhea), the skin develops an oily, yellowish rash in the diaper area and on other body sites.

Causes of diaper rash include friction on the skin by the diaper, irritation from urine and feces trapped by the diaper, fungal infection (Candida) due to moist environmental conditions that promote fungal growth, and an allergic reaction to diaper wipes or laundry chemicals used to clean diapers. Seborrhea skin disease is another cause of diaper rash.

What Are the Treatments for Diaper Rash?

The best treatment for any diaper rash is to keep the skin covered by the diaper as clean and dry as possible. Over-the-counter diaper rash medications like Desitin usually help. You should see good improvements in the rash and discomfort in a few days. However, if the person is diagnosed with a yeast (fungal) infection, a cream or lotion containing an antifungal medication may be needed. Similarly, if a diagnosis of a bacterial infection is made, then an antibiotic cream or lotion may be used. Steroid creams or lotions should be used only under a doctor's recommendation. Finally, avoid using airtight diapers or plastic pants. Leave the diaper off for several short time periods to promote healing.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.