What are the treatments for diaper rash?
Prevention is the first measure for diaper rashes. When a diaper rash develops, treatment may include: frequent diaper changing; leaving the infant's bottom exposed to air as much as possible each day; rinsing the skin with warm water. If the rash causes raw skin, warm water soaks in a tub can be used a few times a day. A few tablespoons of baking soda added to the water may decrease itching and promote healing; changing the diaper during the night until the rash heals; applying an ointment, such as zinc oxide paste. This ointment, when applied to the affected areas, helps to keep stool and urine off
the skin until it heals; applying an antifungal cream, such as nystatin or clotrimazole, for rashes due to yeast infections. If the skin is quite inflamed, it may also help to apply a mild hydrocortisone ointment. The baby's healthcare provider should evaluate a rash before this is done. Stronger cortisone preparations should be avoided. These may cause thinning of the skin of the genital area, which is very sensitive to cortisone; antibiotics, if bacterial infection of the skin occurs.
Antibiotics are generally prescribed for rashes caused by bacteria, particularly impetigo. This may be a topical or oral formulation, depending on the size of the area involved and the severity of the infection. Over-the-counter antifungal creams, such as Lotrimin, are often recommended to treat a rash resulting from yeast. If topical treatment is not effective, an oral antifungal may be prescribed. Mild steroid creams, such as 0.5-1% hydrocortisone, can be used for seborrheic dermatitis and sometimes intertrigo. Prescription strength creams may be needed for short-term treatment of more stubborn cases. Good diaper hygiene will prevent or clear up many simple cases of diaper rash. Diapers should be checked very frequently and changed as soon as they are wet or soiled. Good air circulation is also important for healthy skin. Babies should have some time without wearing a diaper, and a waterproof pad can be used to protect the bed or other surface. Rubber pants, or other occlusive fabrics, should not be used over the diaper area. Some cloth-like disposable diapers promote better air circulation than plastic-type diapers. It may be necessary for mothers to experiment with diaper types to see if the baby's skin reacts better to cloth or disposable ones. If disposable diapers are used, the baby's skin may react differently to various brands. If the baby is wearing cloth diapers, they should be washed in a mild detergent and double rinsed.
The diaper area should be cleaned with something mild, even plain water. Some wipes contain alcohol or chemicals that can be irritating for some babies. Plain water may be the best cleansing substance when there is a rash. Using warm water in a spray bottle (or giving a quick bath) and then lightly patting the skin dry can produce less skin trauma than using wipes. In the event of suspected yeast, a tablespoon of cider vinegar can be added to a cup of warm water and used as a cleansing solution. This is dilute enough that it should not burn, but acidifies the skin pH enough to hamper the yeast growth.
Barrier ointments can be valuable to treat rashes. Those that contain zinc oxide are especially effective. These creams and ointments protect already irritated skin from the additional insult of urine and stool, particularly if the baby has diarrhea. Cornstarch powder may be used on rashes that are moist, such as impetigo. What the baby eats can make a difference in stool frequency and acidity. Typically, breast-fed babies will have fewer problems with rashes. When adding a new food to the diet, the baby should be observed closely to see whether rashes are produced around the baby's mouth or anus. If this occurs, the new food should be discontinued.
Babies who are taking antibiotics are more likely to get rashes due to yeast. To help bring the good bacterial counts back to normal, Lactobacillus bifidus can be added to the diet. It is available in powder form from most health food stores. Some herbal preparations can be useful for diaper rash. Calendula reduces inflammation, tightens tissues, and disinfects. It has been recommended for seborrheic dermatitis as well as for general inflammation of the skin. The ointment should be applied at each diaper change. Chickweed ointment can also be soothing for irritated skin and may be applied once or twice daily.