Nappy rash

This is a very common rash in babies which occurs in the part of their body covered by a nappy. Almost every baby is affected by this at some point.

Nappy rash is not contagious or serious but does tend to cause a fair degree of discomfort for the baby.

Symptoms of nappy rash

This appears as patches of red, inflamed skin around the nappy area, often spreading up to the lower abdomen and/or down the legs.

In severe cases, it can develop into small blisters or ulcers which ooze pus.

If your baby has an angry red rash which is accompanied by a fever then it is more than likely that he/she has developed a fungal or bacterial infection. In this case, medical treatment will be needed so contact your GP.

Apart from the rash your baby may cry more than usual which is due to the stinging sensation from the contents of a nappy on inflamed skin. Your baby may also have difficulty going to sleep or show distress if picked up in a way which puts pressure on the inflamed area.

Causes of nappy rash

This is caused by several factors which include:

    • An allergy to substances contained within disposable nappies.
    • An allergic reaction to chemicals within a cloth nappy e.g. Terry towelling nappy.
    • Prolonged skin contact with a wet or soiled nappy. If the nappy is left on for too long it causes a build up of ammonia which can irritate the skin and cause nappy rash. This is also known as ‘irritant dermatitis’. However, there is much less risk of this happening due to the popularity of disposable nappies.
    • Seborrhoeic dermatitis: this is a skin condition which usually affects the scalp and face but can spread to other parts of the body. The version which occurs in babies only is known as ‘cradle cap’. This skin rash extends across many parts of the body which includes skin folds in the groin area.

Recurring bouts of nappy rash can be a sign of an immune system disorder or zinc metabolism but this is rare.

Treatment of nappy rash

Treatment for this skin condition includes:

  • Allowing the baby to move around without a nappy on. This exposes the infected skin to warm air which helps it to dry out and heal. Do this for an hour or two each day until it has cleared.
  • Change your baby’s nappy more frequently than usual if he/she is experiencing a bout of nappy rash. Do this at the first sign of wetness in the nappy.
  • Apply a nappy rash cream, e.g. zinc based cream to the infected area each time you change your baby’s nappy. Barrier creams are good for this as they prevent any wetness from touching the skin and reduce any discomfort.
  • Change the type of nappy you use. If you use disposable nappies then switch to cloth nappies and vice versa. This may help to clear the cause of the rash.
  • Swap baby wipes for a damp cloth. Some baby wipes contain alcohol which can cause further irritation so swap these for a natural cloth.

These steps should prevent any further outbreaks of nappy rash. But if the rash continues or worsens then see your GP.

Preventing nappy rash

Avoid washing powders and fabric softeners which contain potentially harsh chemicals, switch to alcohol free baby wipes and change the type of nappy you use. Even following the steps mentioned above may not prevent nappy rash but fortunately, it is a mild condition which disappears once your baby no longer wears nappies.

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