Diaper Rash

  • Medical Author:
    John Mersch, MD, FAAP

    Dr. Mersch received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, San Diego, and prior to entering the University Of Southern California School Of Medicine, was a graduate student (attaining PhD candidate status) in Experimental Pathology at USC. He attended internship and residency at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Quick GuideHow to Diaper Your Baby

How to Diaper Your Baby

What treatments are recommended for diaper rash?

The best treatment for diaper rash is avoidance of the precipitating agents which led to the contact irritation and to regions becoming secondarily infected by skin bacteria or yeast. Frequent diaper changes limit stool and urine exposure to the area and remain the foundation for prevention and management of diaper dermatitis.

Should a rash develop, simple cleansing with water and soft cloths tends to be less irritating to the injured skin than disposable wipes. Frequent application of one of the many diaper-area ointments containing either petroleum jelly (Vaseline) or zinc oxide (Desitin) provides an effective barrier against skin irritants and lessens friction to irritated skin. If the diaper rash is especially irritated by the rubbing necessary for proper hygiene, then using a non-sticky cream or ointment (such as Vaseline) as a barrier may be an important consideration. If sticky stool hinders hygiene, it may be more easily removed after application of mineral oil to the area. Most pediatricians find no benefit to using cornstarch or talcum power. The risk of possible aspiration of these powders underscores their general lack of significant efficacy. High-concentration baking soda or boric-acid baths are to be avoided due to possibility of toxicity associated with an increased rate of absorption due to skin breakdown.

Weather and/or carpet permitting, open-air exposure of the irritated skin is also extremely effective in helping clear up diaper rash. Many children have a therapeutic response to merely sitting in a warm-water bath twice daily for 15-20 minutes per session. The value of additional agents (including baking soda) is debatable.

Should these measures not provide a solid response within two to three days, the possibility of a secondary bacterial or yeast infection must be considered. The diaper region should be examined by a pediatrician unless the parent is confident in correctly making these diagnoses. Several topical antibiotic ointments are available for therapy in these situations.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/22/2016

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