Diaper Rash – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Diaper rash

Diaper rash is common among babies. Appropriate behavioral measures can help prevent diaper rash.

What is diaper rash?

Diaper dermatitis is a skin disease that takes an inflammatory course. The term diaper rash is made up of the Greek words for skin (derma) and inflammation (-itis).

Diaper dermatitis occurs predominantly in babies and toddlers who are still wearing diapers. Symptoms of diaper rash include painful or itchy reddened skin in the area covered by the diaper. The formation of blisters or pustules , which can weep, is also possible with diaper rash. In addition to babies and young children, diaper rash can also affect adults in relatively small numbers who wear diapers to prevent incontinence .

Diaper rash is a very common disease in early infancy; According to statistics, almost every baby is affected at least once by a more or less severe form of diaper rash.


Various causes interact in the development of diaper dermatitis : First, the warm, humid environment that prevails under a diaper promotes the spread of germs within the area covered by the diaper.

In addition, the development of diaper dermatitis is favored by the fact that the protective horny layer of the skin is damaged by the prevailing heat and moisture in the diaper area. In the run-up to diaper rash, this damage can mean that harmful substances can penetrate the skin more easily. Such causative substances of diaper rash include, for example, urine (such as ammonia) and feces.

Various illnesses in an affected infant, skin irritation from diapers that are too tight, allergies or a weakened immune system are possible causes for the development of diaper dermatitis.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

Diaper dermatitis is characterized primarily by skin irritation in the areas that come into contact with diapers. These are mostly sore baby bottoms. Mainly newborns in the first three months of life are affected. Nevertheless, diaper rash can develop at any age in people who suffer from fecal or urinary incontinence and have to wear diapers.

The affected skin section appears blurred red. The erythema on the bottom begins to weep. Papules (skin nodules) and pus-filled vesicles often appear on the border of the rash . In some cases, the pustules may spread further to the inner thighs, abdomen, or lower back. If a fungal infestation is added, the symptoms intensify.

The itching of the skin becomes unbearable. Burning pain can also occur. The skin is then much more reddened than with simple diaper rash. The sharply defined edges are conspicuous for their fine scales. In the case of an additional infection with streptococci or staphylococci, greater tissue damage can occur.

In these cases, large blisters often form, which can even lead to skin detachment. Rarely, there is also a fever and the rash can spread to the entire body. Then a so-called bark lichen (pus lichen) can form, which leads to a yellowish scab on the skin after it bursts open and heals. Diaper dermatitis usually heals within a short time without any consequences.

Diagnosis & History

Diaper dermatitis is usually initially diagnosed by the doctor on the basis of the skin rash that is typical of the disease. Typically, when diaper rash is present, the rash extends from a patient’s buttocks through the lower abdomen and genitals.

The thighs can also be affected by the rash that occurs with diaper rash. In a further step, it is usually necessary to rule out other diseases that may be hiding behind an existing skin rash. Possible diseases that cause symptoms similar to diaper rash include neurodermatitis , allergies or psoriasis .

If diaper rash is treated early and appropriately, the disease usually has an uncomplicated course; healing is then possible within a few days. Occasionally there can be complications from diaper rash; for example, diaper rash can occur repeatedly. Very rarely, diaper rash can extend beyond the diaper area.


Normally, diaper rash heals quickly with appropriate measures. Occasionally, however, complications can arise, for example if there are several recurrences and the skin is irritated again and again. Diarrhea or therapy with antibiotics can also aggravate the otherwise harmless clinical picture.

If, despite suitable treatment methods, relapses keep occurring, it is advisable to see a doctor to rule out possible allergies, a weakened immune system or other diseases that can promote inflammatory processes. Another possible complication of diaper rash is that the rash can spread to other areas of the body, and the rash may also show up on the face, head, or arms and legs.

In rare cases, it can also spread to the whole body, causing scaly reddened skin all over. If a skin fungus is triggered due to diaper rash and treatment with cortisone is carried out, the skin in the affected areas can become thinner and thus react even more sensitively to irritation. A fungal disease can also promote diaper thrush and spread to the intestines.

When should you go to the doctor?

If there are changes in the skin of babies, children or people who have to wear diapers in the lower abdomen, these should be observed further. In many cases, a change and optimization of hygiene in dealing with wearing the diaper is sufficient to achieve an improvement in the overall situation. Skin irritation can be managed independently by changing a diaper more frequently or applying creams and conditioners to relieve it.

Normally, even without a doctor’s consultation, there is already a significant alleviation or freedom from symptoms if personal hygiene is improved. If long-term impairments occur or if there is a sudden increase in symptoms, it is advisable to consult a doctor. If the changes in the skin’s appearance spread further, pain occurs or pus blisters develop, there is a need for action. Itching and open wounds should be examined by a doctor. If you have a fever, a general feeling of being unwell or feeling ill, you need to see a doctor.

Medical care should be initiated to avoid complications or secondary diseases. If skin changes occur on the thighs, back or abdomen, this is considered to be a cause for concern. A doctor’s consultation is required to make a diagnosis. If there are problems with locomotion, the person concerned also needs medical help.

Treatment & Therapy

As part of the therapy for diaper rash , the factors that have favored the development of diaper rash are usually combated first. In the case of diaper dermatitis, for example, it is recommended to prevent the build-up of moisture and heat as well as friction caused by unfitting diapers.

In order to ensure the above, in the case of diaper dermatitis, for example, disposable diapers which are permeable to air can preferably be used. Experts also recommend frequent changing of diapers for diaper dermatitis. If possible, it can have a positive effect on combating diaper rash if an affected baby or toddler can spend a few periods of the day without diapers at all.

In various cases, in addition to combating the causative factors of diaper dermatitis, additional symptom treatment may also be necessary. This can happen, for example, when diaper rash shows an infection caused by bacteria or fungi. A corresponding infection in connection with diaper dermatitis can be treated, for example, by administering antibiotic or antimycotic (fungus-fighting) drugs after consultation with the doctor.


Diaper dermatitis can be prevented above all by avoiding factors that can promote the disease. Accordingly, one factor that can prevent diaper dermatitis is, for example, preventing excessive heat and moisture in the diaper area. It is also useful to avoid skin irritation. In addition, protective lotions can reduce the risk of germs penetrating the skin and subsequent diaper rash.


Since diaper dermatitis usually subsides quickly with consistent care and use of prescribed medication, no separate aftercare is generally required. Accordingly, diaper dermatitis is not a disease that requires long-term therapy. Rather, diaper dermatitis represents a temporary, local skin irritation that is not contagious and in which blood values ​​​​normally play no role.

However, separate follow-up care for diaper dermatitis may be necessary if the course is possibly chronic. This can happen when the skin is so irritated by constant inflammation that the dermatitis no longer subsides and secondary diseases such as fungi or a weakened immune system occur. In such cases, the skin must be examined regularly by a specialist after the acute symptoms have subsided.

The aim here is to ensure that the prescribed medication is effective or, if necessary, can be adapted to the complexion. In the area of ​​aftercare, the main concern is to prevent an impending chronification. However, these are exceptional cases and not the typical diaper rash that affects most babies at some point in their lives during the diaper period.

You can do that yourself

As a rule, diaper dermatitis can be treated very well with home remedies and special measures. In principle, it is advisable to temporarily do without the diaper altogether, if this is possible. Ideally, affected children should be laid naked on a blanket in a heated room for at least one hour a day. Older children should be allowed to run around naked a lot. This is especially recommended in summer. In this way, fresh air can get to the irritated skin and the inflammation can heal faster.

Otherwise, the diapers should not be changed until they are full. It is better to change them at least after every meal. When changing diapers, the buttocks should be cleaned with a warm washcloth and oily towels. The area should then be dabbed and ideally blow-dried. On the one hand, it must be ensured that it does not get too hot. On the other hand, male children must be placed on their stomachs so that no stream of urine can get into the hair dryer.

Zinc-containing creams can speed healing. Baby powder, on the other hand, should never be used. In some cases it can help to use a different diaper brand. Disposable diapers are generally better than cloth diapers.

Lisa Newlon
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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.