Diaper rash appears on the skin under a diaper. Diaper rash typically occurs in infants and children younger than 2 years, but the rash can also be seen in people who are incontinent or paralyzed.
Almost every baby will get diaper rash at least once during the first 3 years of life, with the majority of these babies 9-12 months old. This is the time when the baby is still sitting most of the time and is also eating solid foods, which may change the acidity of the bowel movements.
Friction: Most diaper rash is caused by friction that develops when sensitive baby skin is rubbed by wet diapers. This results in a red, shiny rash on exposed areas.
Irritation: The skin under the diaper gets red from irritants such as feces, urine, or cleaning agents. Irritation can be caused by the diaper or by the acid in urine and bowel movements. This rash appears red in the area where the diaper has rubbed and is normally not seen in the folds of the skin.
Candidal infection: The rash of a candidal infection, also known as fungal or yeast infection, usually has a bright, beefy red appearance and is very common after the use of antibiotics. Candida is a fungal microorganism that is typically found in warm, moist places such as in the mouth. In fact, Candida is the same organism that causes thrush.
Allergic reaction: The rash may be a reaction to diaper wipes, diapers, laundry detergent, soap, lotion, or the elastic in plastic pants.
Seborrhea: This is an oily, yellow-colored rash that may also be seen in other areas of the body, such as the face, head, and neck.
Diaper Rash Symptoms
Identifying a diaper rash is usually fairly easy. The rash is located on skin underneath the diaper area.
The skin is red and irritated. It may appear all over your baby's bottom or genital area, or only in certain places. It may or may not involve the folds of the skin.
When to Seek Medical Care
It is usually not necessary to call the doctor for a simple diaper rash. Keeping the diaper area clean and dry should prevent most diaper rashes. However, even the best prevention is sometimes not enough.
Call your doctor if these conditions develop:
The rash does not get better despite treatment in 4-7 days.
The rash is getting significantly worse or has spread to other parts of the body.
The rash appears also to have a bacterial infection, with symptoms such as a puslike drainage or yellowish colored crusting. This is called impetigo and needs to be treated with antibiotics.
You are not certain what may be causing the rash.
You suspect the rash could be from an allergy. The doctor can help you pinpoint the possible allergen.
The rash is accompanied by diarrhea continuing for more than 48 hours.
It is very rare to need to go to the hospital for diaper rash. However, should your child appear to be in severe pain, or if you notice rapid spread of the rash with fever, you should seek medical attention.