Baby with nappy rash

Nappy Rash: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

June 23, 2020
4 min read

Most babies will get nappy rash at least once, even with super-absorbent nappy technology and frequent nappy changes. In most cases, mild nappy rash clears up in a few days with simple at-home treatment. Find out more about what causes nappy rash, what nappy rash looks like, and how to prevent and treat it.

What's in this article:

What Is Nappy Rash? What Does Nappy Rash Look Like? What Causes Nappy Rash? Nappy Rash Treatment and Prevention Treatment for Fungal Nappy Rash When to See the Doctor Other Skin Conditions You Might Mistake for Nappy Rash

What Is Nappy Rash?

Nappy rash is a common condition that typically forms when the sensitive skin around your baby’s nappy area becomes irritated, for example if it remains in contact with urine or poo for too long.

Nappy rash can make your baby’s skin red, hot or sore in patches, and sometimes it can cause spots or blisters.

With proper treatment, nappy rash usually clears up within three or four days, but if the rash doesn’t noticeably improve within a couple of days, or if it gets worse, see your midwife or doctor for advice.

An important way of protecting your little one against nappy rash is changing your baby’s nappy frequently.

What Does Nappy Rash Look Like?

Common signs of nappy rash can include:

  • Red blotches or patches on your baby’s bottom or the whole nappy area
  • Pimples, spots or blisters
  • Hot, sore-looking skin
  • An irritable or fussy baby.

What Causes Nappy Rash?

Even with frequent nappy changes, nappy rash can still happen.

Here are some causes of nappy rash and situations in which it might occur:

  • If your baby’s dirty or wet nappies aren’t changed soon enough and your baby’s skin is in contact with poo or urine for too long
  • Chafing from a nappy that’s too tight and is therefore rubbing against your baby’s skin
  • A reaction to detergents, soaps, bubble baths or some alcohol-based baby wipes
  • Diarrhoea
  • If your baby has recently been treated with antibiotics
  • A fungal or bacterial infection.

Nappy Rash Treatment and Prevention

The steps for treating nappy rash and preventing it are very similar, so if you want to know how to get rid of nappy rash as well as help prevent it, try these remedies:

  • When your baby has a wet or dirty nappy, change it as quickly as possible. This is probably the very best way to treat or prevent nappy rash. Keep in mind that newborn babies may need around 8 to 12 nappy changes a day
  • Gently clean your baby’s bottom with each nappy change. Rinse the skin with warm water or use unscented, alcohol-free wipes
  • Gently pat your baby’s skin dry with a clean towel or – even better – leave the nappy off for a little while before putting on a new one to let the skin air-dry
  • Apply a very thin layer of barrier cream just before putting the nappy on
  • If your baby seems distressed or uncomfortable, ask your health visitor, pharmacist or doctor to recommend a nappy rash cream or ointment
  • Give your little one a bath daily until the nappy rash clears up. Once a day is enough though – bathing your baby more often than that could dry out his or her skin
  • Make sure your baby’s nappy fits properly – for example the tapes should fasten symmetrically, the nappy should cover the buttocks and the nappy should fit snuggly under the belly button
  • When you can, let your baby go without a nappy. For example, you could spread out a towel during playtime and keep your baby’s nappy off for a while
  • If your baby has nappy rash don’t use soaps with fragrances, bubble baths, lotions or talcum powder as these can further irritate the skin.
Pampers

Treatment for Fungal Nappy Rash

If the nappy rash doesn’t clear up within two or three days, your little one may have a fungal infection. In this case, your health visitor or doctor can advise you on the best treatment.

If your baby’s nappy rash is caused by a fungal infection you might see more severe nappy rash symptoms, such as:

  • Pus-filled blisters in the folds of the skin or other areas
  • Bright red, moist patches
  • Distress.
    • Your doctor may prescribe an antifungal cream or medicine. This will usually clear up the infection within a week or so, but you may be advised to keep using it for longer to prevent reinfection.

When to See the Doctor

Check in with your health visitor or doctor if you think your baby’s nappy rash may be caused by a fungal or bacterial infection – this could be the case if the rash lasts longer than a couple of days, especially if it seems severe.

Also let your doctor or health visitor know if your baby has a rash along with a fever or if your little one seems very uncomfortable or distressed.

Seek urgent medical attention if your little one has a rash anywhere on his or her body that doesn’t fade when your press a glass against it. This could be a sign of meningitis, which needs to be treated immediately.

Other symptoms of meningitis include if your baby seems confused, is breathing rapidly, shaking uncontrollably, seems over-sensitive to light and/or has unusually cold hands and feet.

Other Skin Conditions You Might Mistake for Nappy Rash

A rash can sometimes be a symptom of something other than just irritated skin. It’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the symptoms of other common skin conditions so you’ll be able to tell them apart from a simple nappy rash.

Some common baby skin conditions include:

  • Cradle cap. Crusty or flaky patches of skin could be a sign of cradle cap. It’s most common on the scalp, but cradle cap can also appear in the nappy area so you might mistake it for nappy rash if that’s where you notice it first.
  • Oral thrush. One possible cause of a fungal nappy rash is oral thrush. This yeast infection of the mouth is common in newborn babies, because their immune systems are still developing. The candida yeast that causes it can end up in your baby’s poo, spreading the infection to the nappy area. This is why, if your little one has a nappy rash caused by a fungal infection, it’s a good idea to check his or her mouth as well. The symptoms of oral thrush can include a white coating on the tongue or white spots in or around your baby’s mouth.
  • Eczema. Itchy, sore or cracked skin could be eczema. Sometimes it can get inflamed, causing redness. Eczema is most common on the face, scalp, hands, insides of the elbows and backs of the knees, but it can also appear anywhere on the body. If you suspect your little one has eczema, see your doctor for advice on how best to treat it.

If you’re not sure precisely what might be causing nappy rash or any other rash on your baby’s skin, ask your health visitor or doctor for advice. Get more tips on how to care for your little one’s delicate skin.

FAQs at a Glance

  • Q : How do you get rid of nappy rash?
  • Q : What does fungal nappy rash look like?
  • Q : How long does nappy rash take to heal?
  • Q : Is nappy rash painful for babies?
  • Q : When should I see a doctor about nappy rash?
  • Q : Is a bath good for nappy rash?

Even when you’re careful to frequently change your little one’s nappies, there’s still a good chance that he or she will get a nappy rash at some point.

The good news is that most mild cases clear up within a few days with simple treatment and your little one’s skin will soon return to being as smooth and soft as, well... a baby’s bottom!

How we wrote this article
The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the National Health Service (NHS). You can find a full list of sources used for this article below.
The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.

See all sources

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