Baby Diaper Rash or Nappy Rash

Diaper rash (nappy rash) is so common in babies and is often a cause for concern for mothers. This page discusses the likely causes and the options for treatment and includes a photo of a diaper/nappy rash.

You can click on a link to a specific question below or just keep reading for an overview.


What is Diaper or Nappy Rash?

It is a rash in the diaper or nappy area due to irritation, usually by moisture. This can occur because you live in a warm, humid climate or because of irritation to the skin from the urine (and chemicals in urine like ammonia) in a wet diaper or nappy.

Babies can also get a diaper rash (nappy rash) due to thrush, which is an infection with the yeast Candida. With thrush, there are often discrete spots (we call them satellite lesions) scattered around the rash as well. To read more on thrush and to view a photo, click here.

Babies can also get seborrheic dermatitis in the diaper (nappy) area. This rash has a waxy, greasy slightly yellow appearance and does respond to topical steroids. Seborrheic dermatitis on the scalp is called Cradle Cap. Read more

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What does diaper (nappy ) rash look like?

The skin in the diaper (nappy) area is red and can have scales. The skin in the creases of the thighs is usually spared as the moisture doesn't reach inside the creases.

The baby in the photo has eczema as well, as you can see on the baby's trunk. Eczema makes the skin more likely to become irritated, so if the baby is in wet diapers (nappies) for too long, he can easily get a diaper rash.

To see the photo to the right, hold the mouse over it.

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What is the Treatment of Diaper Rash?

  • Firstly, keep the skin as dry as possible.
  • Leave the diaper (nappy) off and leave your baby's skin open to the air
  • Change diapers (nappies) regularly
  • Wash and dry the diaper (nappy) area with each change
  • Apply a barrier ointment at each diaper (nappy) change to keep moisture away from the skin - use one with zinc oxide or petrolatum (Zinc and Castor Oil, Vaseline)
  • If the rash has persisted for 4 days or more, there may be a yeast infection, so consider treating for thrush - read more
  • Many mothers like Lucas Pawpaw Ointment for diaper (nappy) rash - to read more, click here

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Is any other treatment necessary?

Sometimes, if the skin is very red and inflamed, a course of steroid cream (1% Hydrocortisone) will be necessary. This is more likely in infants between 9 and 12 months of age, and if the rash is thought to be seborrheic dermatitis - so has a waxy, yellow appearance.

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When should I see my doctor?

See you doctor

  • if the rash persists beyond 3 weeks
  • if there are discrete spots, as this may indicate thrush which will respond to anti-fungal agents
  • if the rash has a waxy, yellow appearance, as this may indicate seborrheic dermatitis which will respond to topical steroids

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  • Pediatric Pearls. Rosenstein B, Fosareeli P, Douglas Baker M. 4th edition. Mosby 2002

To read about thrush as a cause of diaper rash, click here

To go to the Skin Rash page, click here

To go to the Baby problem page, click here

To return to the Home page, click here

Last reviewed 30 August 2011

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Dr Maud MD

Dr Maud MD (MBChB, FRACP, FRCPCH), a specialist pediatrician, provides health information and medical advice for parents of babies and toddlers. Read more about Dr Maud.

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