What Do I Do? If My Baby Has Diaper Rash?

Advice for preventing and treating an angry bottom.

Your child will likely spend two to three years in diapers. Regardless of the type of diaper you choose, you can expect to battle at least a few diaper rashes. At least half of all babies get a diaper rash at some point. In fact, reddened, inflamed skin in the diaper area is one of the most common reasons parents seek medical care from their child’s doctor. You’re not alone! They are common and rarely dangerous, but with these prevention and treatment pointers, you should be better equipped to handle and conquer even the angriest of diaper rashes.

In many cases, diaper rash can be avoided or prevented. Make these steps part of your daily routine.

    • Check your baby’s diaper often (ideally every 2 hours or so), and change it as soon as it’s wet or soiled.


    • Allow your baby’s skin to dry completely before putting on another diaper.


    • Secure diapers loosely to allow for airflow.


    • Don’t allow adhesive tabs to stick to your baby’s skin.


    • Wash your hands before and after changing diapers to prevent spreading germs that could cause infections.


    • Some babies get rashes often. You can apply a barrier ointment at every diaper change to prevent irritation. Products that contain zinc oxide (such as Desitin) or petroleum (such as Vaseline) are good choices. Be sure to slather it on thickly, like icing, and gently. Don’t worry about removing it completely at each diaper change — rubbing and scrubbing is likely to damage your baby’s skin and make it more rash-prone.


    • Don’t use powders, such as cornstarch or baby powder, on your baby’s bottom. Inhaled powder can irritate their lungs.


    • Dodge irritants. Avoid perfumes and alcohols in soaps, scented baby wipes and other products that come in contact with your baby’s nether region that can irritate skin.


    • Prevent diaper rash by cleaning their bottom with a washcloth soaked in warm water instead of using wipes — at least during the newborn stage, when that tender skin is the most sensitive. Also opt for a water-only approach or choose alcohol-free, unscented products if your little one seems particularly prone to rashes. Reach for the soap only when necessary.


The key to treating diaper rash is to keep your baby’s diaper area as clean, cool, and dry as possible.


    • Change your baby’s diaper often. Avoid baby wipes, which often contain alcohol or fragrance that can be irritating. Clean the skin with warm (not hot) water or very mild soap.


    • Let him or her go without a diaper when possible for several hours each day to give irritated skin a chance to dry and “breathe.” This is easiest if you place your baby in a crib with waterproof sheets or on a large towel on the floor. Try placing your baby on an open cloth diaper during naptime. (Check the diaper shortly after your baby falls asleep and replace it if it’s wet. Babies often urinate right after falling asleep.)


    • You can apply diaper rash ointment or cream to the affected area before putting on a new diaper. Don’t use creams that contain boric acid, camphor, phenol, methyl salicylate, or compound of benzoin tincture. These chemicals can be harmful.


    • Change diaper brands or types. Sometimes super absorbent disposables are so efficient at trapping moisture that they help trigger more rashes. Try experimenting with different types of diapers or switch to cloth to see if that helps prevent diaper rash. Cloth diapers are less absorbent, which encourages more frequent changes (a change for the better if it leads to fewer breakouts). But cloth diapers can also mean more diaper rashes (or more severe cases) for some babies, which is complicated by the fact that you can’t use many diaper rash creams with them. If that’s happening to your little one, changing the detergent you wash the diapers in to one free of dyes and other irritants might help, as could swapping out cloth for disposables, at least temporarily.


If you use cloth diapers, you should also keep these tips in mind.

      • Wash diapers in hot water with bleach to kill germs. You can also boil them for 15 minutes on the stove after washing.


    • Rinse diapers 2-3 times to remove all soap and chemicals.


    • Avoid fabric softener and dryer sheets, which can irritate skin.


    • Try to avoid plastic pants that fit over diapers. They increase heat and moisture in the diaper area. This makes it easier for diaper rash to start and for germs to grow.


Diaper rash usually goes away within 2 to 3 days with home care, although it can last longer.


When Should I Call the Doctor?
If the rash doesn’t go away, gets worse, or if sores appear on your baby’s skin, talk to your doctor. Also get medical care if your baby has a fever, pus is draining from the rash, or if your child is fussier than usual.