Nappy Rash

A red rash in the area covered by a nappy, caused by irritation or infection

  • May affect babies from birth until they stop wearing nappies
  • Poor hygiene and infrequent nappy changes increase the risk
  • Gender and genetics are not significant factors

Nearly all babies are affected by nappy rash at some time. The rash causes inflammation and soreness in the area of skin covered by a nappy, and the discomfort can make a baby irritable.

What are the causes?

Nappy rash is most commonly caused by urine or faeces irritating the skin. It usually occurs only where the skin and soiled nappy have been in direct contact and does not spread to creases in the baby’s skin. The rash is made worse if the baby’s nappy is not changed frequently or the nappy area is not cleaned thoroughly. Perfumed skin products and some washing powders used to clean fabric nappies can cause a similar rash.

A fungal infection of the skin such as candidiasis or, less commonly, a bacterial infection such as impetigo can also cause nappy rash. A rash caused by infection will affect the whole nappy area, including the creases in the baby’s skin. Sometimes, a scaly rash similar to cradle cap develops in the baby’s nappy area (see Seborrhoeic dermatitis).

What might be done?

Your baby’s nappy rash will usually clear up within a few days without any medical treatment if you follow the simple self-help measures suggested for managing nappy rash.

You should take your baby to the doctor if these self-help measures do not produce an improvement or if you think the nappy rash may be infected. Your baby’s doctor will examine the rash and may prescribe topical corticosteroids to reduce the inflammation. Oral or topical antibiotics may be prescribed to treat a bacterial infection, and topical antifungal drugs may be given to treat candidiasis (see Preparations for skin infections and infestations).

An infected nappy rash should improve with treatment and clear up completely within a week. Nappy rash may recur if preventive self-help measures are not followed regularly throughout the time your child is wearing nappies.

Self-help: Managing Nappy Rash

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.

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