teddy bear next to diapers
teddy bear next to diapers
teddy bear next to diapers

Diaper Dermatitis

What is diaper dermatitis?

Diaper dermatitis is inflammation of the skin in the diaper area. It’s a very common condition in babies and toddlers.

What causes diaper dermatitis?

In most cases, diaper dermatitis is a type of contact dermatitis. That means the skin is inflamed from contact with certain substances. In diaper dermatitis, urine and feces irritate the skin. 

Other common causes of diaper dermatitis include:

  • Candida. This is a yeast infection in the diaper area. Candida infection may occur if contact dermatitis is not treated within a few days.
  • Seborrhea. This is a common, long-term skin condition. The cause of seborrhea is not known. It usually affects the diaper area and other parts of the body.

Other less common causes of dermatitis in the diaper area include:

  • Bacteria. Staph or strep bacteria can cause it.
  • Allergies. It can be caused by an allergic reaction to dye in disposable diapers, or detergent used to wash cloth diapers.

Which children are at risk for diaper dermatitis?

Any baby or toddler can develop diaper dermatitis. Things that increase the risk include:

  • You don't change your child's diapers often enough
  • Your child has diarrhea or frequent bowel movements
  • Your child is taking antibiotic medicines. Or you are taking antibiotics and you are breastfeeding.

What are the symptoms of diaper dermatitis?

The symptoms of diaper dermatitis vary depending on the cause. And symptoms can occur a bit differently in each child. They can include:

  • Contact diaper dermatitis. Skin that is irritated from urine and feces will look red and shiny. The skin on the buttocks, thighs, belly (abdomen), and waist may be affected. The skin creases or folds are usually not affected.
  • Candida diaper dermatitis. The skin is a deep red color with patches outside of the diaper area. A baby may also have a yeast infection in the mouth (thrush). The creases or folds of the thighs and in the diaper area are usually affected. 
  • Seborrheic diaper dermatitis. The skin is red with yellow, oily patches.Italso affects the skin folds. It also usually affects the face, scalp, or neck at the same time.

The symptoms of diaper dermatitis can be like other health conditions. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is diaper dermatitis diagnosed?

The healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and health history. He or she will give your child a physical exam. Your child's healthcare provider may advise lab tests, but they are usually not needed.

How is diaper dermatitis treated?

Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on the cause, and how severe the condition is. Treatment may include:

  • Periods of time without wearing diapers
  • Frequent diaper changes
  • Ointment put on the diaper area to protect the skin
  • Antifungal cream or ointment for a Candida infection
  • Corticosteroid cream for more severe dermatitis
  • Antibiotic medicine for a bacterial infection

What can I do to help prevent diaper dermatitis in my child?

Proper skin care is very important to prevent diaper dermatitis. This includes:

  • Keeping the skin under a diaper clean and dry
  • Changing diapers often
  • Letting the skin under a diaper to air dry at times
  • Letting your child to go without a diaper when possible
  • Gently cleaning the diaper area with a soft cloth and warm water
  • Limiting the use of soap or other strong products on the skin
  • Not using scented wipes or wipes with alcohol

When should I call my child's healthcare provider?

Call the healthcare provider if your child has:

  • Symptoms that don’t get better in 2 to 3 days
  • Symptoms that get worse
  • Blisters or pus-filled sores

Key points about diaper dermatitis

  • Diaper dermatitis is inflammation of the skin under a diaper.
  • It is most often because of irritation from urine and feces.
  • Different types of diaper dermatitis have different symptoms. When irritated from urine and feces, the skin is usually red in color.
  • Treatment includes diaper-free periods, cream, and ointment.
  • It is important to keep the diaper area clean and dry, change diapers often, and avoid irritants such as soap or scented wipes.

Next steps

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:

  • Know the reason for the visit and what you want to happen.
  • Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
  • At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you for your child.
  • Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed and how it will help your child. Also know what the side effects are.
  • Ask if your child’s condition can be treated in other ways.
  • Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
  • Know what to expect if your child does not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
  • If your child has a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
  • Know how you can contact your child’s provider after office hours. This is important if your child becomes ill and you have questions or need advice.

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