Nappy Rash

Leaving a nappy on your baby too long is a common cause of nappy rash but not the only cause.

Some babies get nappy rash no matter how well they are cared for, while others don't get nappy rash at all.  Your baby may get nappy rash when he has a cold, when he is teething or when he is suffering from an illnesses or food intolerance.

Signs of nappy rash include:

  • Inflamed skin: the skin around the genital area and anus looks red and moist
  • Blistering: the skin may blister and peel, leaving raw patches that can develop into ulcers
  • Spreading: the rash can spread onto the tummy and further onto the buttocks
  • Ulcers: small ulcers can sometimes form on healthy skin near the area of the rash.

A secondary bacterial or fungal infection is commonly the cause of nappy rash that spreads or fails to heal by airing, bathing and applying barrier creams or ointments. Damaged skin in the nappy area is often uncomfortable, itchy or sore. When your baby has nappy rash he may have unsettled sleep due to pain and irritation.

Some causes of nappy rash include:

  • Chemicals in urine become ammonia and burn the skin when in direct contact for too long
  • Thrush (Candida) – grows in a warm, moist, airless environment. This type of nappy rash spreads in red patches and does not go away with barrier creams
  • Chemicals in nappy soaking solutions, laundry detergents, fabric softeners, cleansing wipes, scented soaps and lotions and certain brands of disposable nappies can irritate baby’s skin and cause rash
  • Anti-fungal medicated creams applied too thick can burn skin
  • Plastic pants keep your baby’s clothes clean and dry, but most prevent airflow. Clothes do not get wet and your baby is often left in a wet or dirty nappy for long periods. The skin remains wet and urine changes into ammonia that burns. The area becomes warm leaving it susceptible to thrush
  • Rough nappies, sand or dirt can rub and chafe baby’s sensitive skin
  • Poo is more acidic when your baby is teething and burns delicate skin
  • When your baby has frequent diarrhoea
  • If your baby has little nappy-free time and lots of soiled nappies
  • an overload of lactose (sugar in milk) can cause frequent sugary poo that causes a rash

Ideas for how to heal nappy rash include:

  1. Work out the cause and eliminate the problem 
  2. Provide periods of nappy free time each day
  3. Bathe rash area in normal saline solution or sea salt in cooled boiled water, air dry or gently pat dry with soft wipe
  4. apply anti-fungal cream sparingly if required

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Jan Murray has been committed to studying and working as a Registered Nurse, Midwife and Child Health Nurse for over 25 years. Jan has a bachelor of Behavioural Science, is a mother and nanna, who co-founded and directs Settle Petal. Jan provides information and support for parents to develop their knowledge base and confidence.

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