About two-thirds of all infants will be affected with symptoms of diaper rash at some point. Although the sight of red, inflamed skin can be alarming for parents, there are many simple ways to treat and prevent the occurrence of this common rash.

Most often, diaper rash is caused by diapers rubbing against the skin, infrequent diaper changes, diapers that fit too tightly, plastic pants that fit over diapers, and bouts of diarrhea. All of these cause irritation to the skin. The best way to prevent diaper rash is to keep your baby's diaper area clean, cool, and dry as much as possible.

Here are some tips for preventing and treating diaper rash:

  • Leave your baby without a diaper on for short periods of time throughout the day. Try placing your baby on a towel or cloth without a diaper as long as possible. This will increase airflow to the affected area.
  • Change your baby's diaper frequently. Try to do so immediately after it gets wet or soiled. Check diapers regularly.
  • Clean and dry your baby's diaper area with each diaper change. Use warm water (and a mild soap if needed) and gently pat the area dry.
  • Avoid tight-fitting diapers. Make sure the diaper size is not too small for your baby, and avoid tightening diapers too close to your baby's skin. Try using larger diapers until your baby's rash goes away.
  • Avoid irritating wipes. Many wipes contain irritating chemicals such as alcohol, soap, and fragrance.
  • If using disposable diapers, super-absorbent diapers with a gel material in their core may be more effective at minimizing moisture.
  • If using cloth diapers, make sure to wash with a mild detergent. Avoid using harsh soaps or fabric softeners that can irritate the skin. Consider rinsing cloth diapers twice to remove all the soap, or using a cup of vinegar in the final rinse to lower the pH. Either of these will minimize skin irritation.
  • Avoid powders such as cornstarch and talcum powder (talc). Talcum powder can irritate your baby's lungs and cornstarch can lead to infection if applied to broken skin.
  • Talk to your doctor about regular use of diaper rash creams or ointments. If used regularly, zinc oxide is a common ingredient that can help resolve a diaper rash and also prevent one from occurring. Petroleum jelly helps to protect the skin from moisture.

If these tips don't work and the rash doesn't go away within a few days, or if it is severe or accompanied by other symptoms (e.g., fever, diarrhea, rashes on other areas), see a doctor as soon as possible.