What Is Diaper Rash, Exactly?


Diaper rash (diaper dermatitis) is the most common skin problem in babies and young children. It is caused by prolonged exposure of the skin to moisture, chemical irritants, bacteria from stool and urine, fungus, and friction from diapers and clothing (food allergies are also possible culprits). When soiled diapers go unchanged, even for a brief amount of time chemicals can form in the diaper material. These in turn can irritate the skin, making it vulnerable to infection. It occurs most in babies between the ages of 6 and 12 months, but may occur at any age if diapers or incontinence briefs are worn.

The most common causes of diaper rash include:

  • Often times when babies begin to sleep longer their a rash will develop as their skin is in contact with a wet diaper longer.
  • Not changing a wet or dirty diaper often enough. The skin becomes irritated from contact with urine and stool, particularly when diarrhea is present.
  • Babies starting to eat solid foods. This may change their stools and make diaper rash worse.
  • Rubbing of the skin by a diaper or incontinence brief. The irritated area may include the thighs, genitals, buttocks, or belly area.
  • A skin reaction to perfumes in disposable diapers or incontinence briefs, to chemicals in skin-cleaning “diaper wipes”, or to the detergents or fabric softeners used to clean cloth diapers
  • Being prescribed antibiotics may cause diaper rash to develop on some babies. It is important to monitor your babies’ reaction to some medications

What are the Signs or Symptoms of Diaper Rash?

In most cases it is easy to recognize diaper rash:

  • Pinkness or redness over a small or large area, wherever the diaper touches
  • Dry raised bumps
  • Fluid-filled raised pimples or oozing yellow patches
  • Dryness or peeling/scaling of the skin
  • Affected areas may be swollen and warm to the touch