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Diaper rash (diaper dermatitis) is a skin problem caused by the skin staying wet, rubbing from the diaper, and contact with chemicals in the urine and stool. The skin may look red, raw, scalded, or burned. While a diaper rash is uncomfortable, generally it is not a serious problem.
Diaper rash is the most common skin problem in babies and young children, but it can occur at any age if diapers or incontinence briefs are worn. Diaper rash occurs most often in babies between the ages of 9 and 12 months. It often occurs in babies who sleep for many hours without waking so the wet diaper is on them longer.
An adult may develop a rash in the genital area if he or she cannot wash the genital area well, such as while on a long backpacking trip. If an adult does not have complete bowel or bladder control (incontinence), he or she may use incontinence briefs. These briefs can cause skin irritation or a person may be allergic to the perfumes in the material. This type of rash is very similar to a baby’s diaper rash. Home treatment measures may help the rash go away.
The skin may blister or peel in severe cases of diaper rash, leaving raw areas that may bleed or ooze fluid. A diaper rash that becomes raw, oozes fluid, or bleeds is harder to treat. Fungal or bacterial infections may be the cause of a severe diaper rash.
The most common causes of diaper rash include:
- 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.
A diaper rash may also be a sign of abuse or neglect.
- Neglect occurs when a caregiver does not treat a diaper rash at the time treatment is needed.
- Abuse occurs when a caregiver purposely does not treat a diaper rash because of anger directed at the child or vulnerable adult.
Sometimes a diaper rash may occur with other skin problems, such as psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, or seborrhea. The rash may be red and oozing. A crust may form, and there will often be similar patches of rash on other parts of the body.
Most diaper rashes last about 24 hours and can be treated at home. The rash clears up when the diapers are changed more often, careful washing and cleaning of the skin is done, or nonprescription ointments are put on the area. Treatment for diaper rash is the same for both children and adults.
Home treatment is generally all that is needed for most cases of diaper rash. At the first sign of a diaper rash, try the following steps.
- Keep the skin dry, and make sure the skin is not in contact with urine and stool.
- Change the diaper or incontinence brief every time it is wet or soiled. During the daytime, check the diaper or brief every 3 hours. You may need to change the diaper or brief during the night to prevent or clear up a rash. It is not unusual to change a diaper or brief 8 times in a 24-hour period.
- Use a superabsorbent disposable diaper.
- Gently wash the diaper area with warm water and a soft cloth. Rinse well and dry completely.
- Do not use any soap unless the area is very soiled. Use only a mild soap if soap is needed.
- Do not use “baby wipes” that have alcohol or propylene glycol to clean the skin while a diaper rash is present. These may burn the skin and spread bacteria on the skin.
- You may use a blow-dryer set on warm setting to get the diaper area fully dry on adults. Do not use a blow-dryer on babies or small children.
- Leave diapers and incontinence briefs off as much as possible.
- Protect the healthy skin near the rash with a cream such as Desitin, Diaparene, A&D Ointment, or zinc oxide. Do not apply the cream to broken skin, because it can slow the healing process.
- If you use a disposable product, fold the plastic area away from the body, and do not put the diaper on too tightly. Do not use bulky or many-layered diapers or incontinence briefs.
- Do not use plastic pants until the rash is gone.
- Give more fluids to make the urine less concentrated. Cranberry juice may be used by adults and children over 12 months of age. Do not use other juices, which may make the urine more irritating to the skin.
If the diaper rash does not get better after several days, try the following steps.
- Soak in a warm bath for 10 minutes, 3 times a day, if the skin is very raw.
- For babies and young children, add 2 Tbsp (30 mL) of baking soda to a baby tub, a basin of warm water, or a bathtub. Remember, do not bathe a baby until the umbilical cord has fallen off, and never leave a child alone while he or she is in the bath.
- Have older children and adults sit in a bathtub with a few inches of warm water or use a sitz bath.
- If you use a disposable product, change brands or switch to a cloth product. Try a superabsorbent disposable diaper or brief with absorbent gelling material (AGM), which pulls moisture away from the skin. Some people are less likely to develop a rash with one diapering product than another.
- If you use a cloth product, switch to a disposable product. The cloth or the products used to clean the cloth diaper may be causing the rash.
- If you use cloth and do not want to switch to a disposable product, change detergents.
- Rinse diapers or briefs twice when washing.
- Use vinegar in the final rinse at a strength of 1 fl oz (30 mL) vinegar to 1 gal (4 L) of water.
When treating a diaper rash:
- Do not use a nonprescription adult vaginal yeast medicine on a baby or child. Check with your doctor before using any product made for an adult on a baby or child.
- Adults can use a nonprescription adult yeast medicine to treat diaper rash. Follow the instructions on the package.
- Do not use baby powder while a rash is present. The powder can build up in the skin creases and hold moisture. This may help bacteria grow and cause an infection.
- Do not use cornstarch on a rash in the diaper area. Cornstarch also allows bacteria to grow.
Symptoms to watch for during home treatment
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:
- A rash in the diaper area looks like a rash on other parts of the body.
- Signs of infection develop.
- Symptoms become more severe or frequent.
The following simple steps can help prevent diaper rash.
- Always wash your hands and your child’s hands well before and after each diaper change.
- Change diapers or incontinence briefs as soon as possible after they become soiled or wet. Check the diaper at least every 2 hours. Diapers or incontinence briefs need to be changed at least 8 times every 24 hours.
- Leave the diaper or incontinence brief off and allow the area to air-dry for 5 to 10 minutes after each diaper change. Make sure a baby is in a safe place during this time.
- Wash cloth diapers with mild detergent, and rinse them twice. Do not use bleach or fabric softeners.
- If you use cloth diapers, do not use plastic pants, which hold moisture on the skin.
- If diarrhea is present, protect the diaper area with a cream such as Desitin, Diaparene, A&D Ointment, or zinc oxide. This will protect the skin from bacteria that might cause infection.
What are birthmarks?
A birthmark is a colored mark on or under a newborn baby’s skin. Some birthmarks show up soon after a baby is born. Most birthmarks are obvious at birth. Some kinds of birthmarks fade or go away as a child gets older. Others stay the same or get bigger, darker, or thicker.
There are many kinds of birthmarks. They can be any size or shape and can be different colors, such as blue or blue-gray, brown, tan, black, pink, white, red, or purple. Some birthmarks are smooth, and some are raised or lumpy.
Nearly all birthmarks are harmless and painless. But it’s important to have a doctor check all birthmarks, just to be sure they are okay.
What causes birthmarks?
Some birthmarks are from extra color (pigment) in the skin. Other birthmarks are blood vessels that are bunched together or don’t grow normally.
It’s not clear why some children have birthmarks and others don’t.
What kinds of birthmarks are there?
- Salmon patches (also called stork bites, angel kisses, and macular stains). Salmon patches are thin, flat, light pink or red birthmarks. They tend to be on the back of the neck, the upper eyelids, upper lip, or between the eyebrows.
- Congenital moles (nevi). Congenital moles can grow anywhere on the body. They vary in size and shape. Most are brown.
- Café-au-lait spots. Most café-au-lait spots are smooth, oval birthmarks. They range in color from light brown to chocolate brown and usually are found on the torso, buttocks, and legs.
- Mongolian spots. Mongolian spots are smooth, blue or blue-gray birthmarks. They are often uneven in shape and are on the lower back and buttocks.
- Hemangiomas. Hemangiomas are raised birthmarks. They are blue, red, or purple. They are clumps of blood vessels that didn’t grow normally. Hemangiomas grow in many shapes and sizes. They may grow only on the skin, or they may extend deeper into the body.
- Port-wine stains. Port-wine stains are birthmarks that are pink-red at birth and then become a darker red-purple. Port-wine stains are blood vessels that didn’t grow normally. They can be small, or they can cover a large area of the body.
Do birthmarks need to be treated?
Most birthmarks are harmless and need no treatment. Some will even fade or disappear over time. But in rare cases, birthmarks need treatment because they are growing quickly, growing on an internal organ, or causing a medical problem (such as a problem with sight, breathing, hearing, speech, or movement).
There are several ways to fade, shrink, or remove birthmarks. These include:
- Medicines, such as propranolol or corticosteroids.
- Laser therapy.
Your options will depend on the type of birthmark, where it is, and what problems it’s causing. Treating a birthmark can be a big decision. The treatments may not work, and they can be painful and cause side effects.
If your child’s birthmark bothers or worries you, try not to let your child know how you feel. Ask others not to make a big deal out of it. If a birthmark upsets your child, it may help to have your child talk with a trusted doctor. If your child is still upset, talking to a counselor or support group may be a good idea to help him or her feel better.
Is it important to have birthmarks checked?
If you see a birthmark on your baby, make sure that a doctor has seen it. Although most birthmarks are harmless, some aren’t.
If a birthmark grows, bleeds, hurts, or gets infected, see a doctor to have it checked.
Handling food safely, practicing basic hygiene to prevent communicable diseases, and getting regular physical exams and immunizations are all healthy habits that help protect your child against illness and infection.
Safe food preparation and precautions
Thorough cleaning and food preparation helps keep you and your child from getting food-borne illnesses. Do your best to also choose restaurants that handle food safely.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends the following steps to prevent food poisoning:
- Prepare foods safely. Because germs spread easily on surfaces that many people use or touch, it is important to wash your hands often and keep surfaces clean.
- Shop safely. Raw meats, seafood, and eggs can contaminate other foods they touch. Keep these items wrapped in plastic and away from fresh foods in your shopping cart.
- Cook foods safely. Meats and foods that have been in contact with raw meat need to be cooked thoroughly to prevent the growth of bacteria. The specific temperature varies by type of food.
- Store foods safely. Keep food temperatures at safe levels to prevent bacterial growth that can cause illness. For example, perishable foods should be refrigerated promptly, not left out on the counter.
- Follow labels on food packaging. Look for expiration dates on perishable foods before you buy or eat them. Also, follow cooking guidelines that are provided, such as temperature and cooking time.
- Serve foods safely. Keep hot foods hot—140°F (60°C) or above—and cold foods cold—40°F (4.4°C) or below. If you are not sure if a food is safe to eat, throw it out.
Protect against the spread of illness
Although colds and flu are more common in the colder months, they can occur any time of year. Take extra precautions to help protect your child against these and other viral and bacterial infections.
- Be aware of higher risk of germs in public areas. Avoid exposing your child to a large crowd if he or she has been ill recently or has an otherwise weakened immune system, especially when a contagious illness is going around. Also, it may be helpful to have a hand sanitizer and disposable wipes on hand to clean hands and to wipe off shopping carts or other shared items in public places.
- Avoid close contact with others who are sick. Keep your child away from others who are obviously ill. Also, if your child is ill, avoid contact with other children until the contagious period is over. Talk to your doctor if you are unsure about how long your child is likely to be contagious.
- Wash your hands often. Keeping your hands clean is an obvious but often overlooked means of preventing the spread of germs.
- Wash and disinfect surfaces and toys. Areas where germs collect, such as the kitchen and bathroom, should be kept clean and frequently disinfected.
- Teach children to cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze, preferably using a tissue so that germs do not get on their hands. Also show them how to use tissues to wipe their noses.
- Have your child immunized. Immunizations provide important protection for your child against harmful disease.
Visit the doctor regularly
Schedule regular well-child appointments. During these visits, the doctor:
- Gives your child a general physical exam.
- Gives or schedules immunizations.
- Asks you questions about your child’s health and development and whether you have any concerns.
The crib is the one place where babies and young children are regularly left unsupervised. To help keep your child safe, use recommended equipment properly and update features of the crib as your child grows.
Crib safety standards
The strict guidelines for crib construction help prevent many accidents. If a crib does not meet current safety standards, your baby may be injured.
A properly constructed crib has:
- Less than 2 3/8 inches (60 mm) of space between slats. This prevents a child’s head from becoming trapped.
- No cutout designs or spaces if there is an otherwise solid headboard or footboard. A child’s head, hands, arms, or legs can get stuck.
- No corner posts. Clothing can attach to these posts and injure or strangle a child.
- Tight and secure screws, bolts, and other construction materials. Check these parts every week. A physically active child can loosen these structures, and the crib can collapse.
- Lead-free paint. Older cribs may have paint that is lead-based. Babies can get lead-poisoning from chewing and gnawing on a crib with lead-based paint.
Don’t use an old crib. And if a crib has missing or broken parts, don’t use the crib and don’t try to fix it yourself. Get a crib that does not need any repairs. For more information on crib safety, call the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) at 1-800-638-2772.
Crib-related injuries also are caused by unsafe or improperly used accessories. Injuries can also occur as your child grows bigger. Be aware of the common crib hazards. Make sure you:1
- Use only mattresses designed for the crib. You should not be able to fit more than two fingers in the space between the mattress and crib. Also, remove any plastic covering from the mattress.
- Help prevent your child from falling out of the crib, the leading cause of crib accidents, by adjusting the mattress level as he or she grows. Start lowering the mattress no later than when your child begins to sit with little help. Adjust the mattress to its lowest setting by the time your baby can stand.
- Keep cribs—as well as all other furniture and large objects—away from windows to prevent serious falls.
- Do not place the crib near drapes or blinds. Window cords can get wrapped around a child’s neck. When your child is 35 in. (89 cm) tall, he or she has outgrown the crib and should sleep in a bed.
- Remove mobiles and activity gyms from the crib by the time your child can push up on his or her hands and knees or is 5 months of age, whichever comes first. These are strangulation hazards for children who can get onto their hands and knees.
- Don’t use bumper pads or other products that attach to crib slats or sides. They could suffocate or trap your baby.
- Keep soft items and loose bedding out of the crib. Items such as blankets, stuffed animals, toys, and pillows could suffocate or trap your baby. Dress your baby in sleepers instead of using blankets.
Movable side rails are a safety hazard, and new cribs are no longer made with them. If your crib has the kind of side rail that can be raised and lowered, always raise it and secure it properly when your child is in the crib.