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Ask Dr. Sears: Diaper-Rash Distress

Q. What could be causing our baby's bad diaper rash --and can we cure it?

A.
During their first six months, many infants have reddened bottoms to some degree as their delicate skin adapts to irritating urine and stools. And the skin can be aggravated even more by the friction of a diaper. Loose stools --which older babies sometimes get due to antibiotics, a change in diet, or the excess saliva from teething --can also bring on diaper rash.Though some of these early rashes are inevitable, here are some steps you can take to minimize them:

  • Use extra-absorbent diapers that keep your baby as dry as possible, and change them frequently, even if you don't think she's wet.
  • Rinse the diaper area with water (and a mild soap if needed) after every change. (Until the rash goes away, avoid baby wipes that contain alcohol.)
  • After washing, dip her bottom in a baking-soda bath if she has a bad rash (add a cup of baking soda to the water). This neutralizes the acid in the stools and urine. Pat dry with a soft towel.
  • Expose your baby's behind to the air occasionally. During naps, for instance, try letting her sleep bottomless on a folded diaper with a towel placed underneath her to protect the bedding.
  • Slather on a generous amount of an ointment containing zinc oxide after you change her diapers.
  • If you notice a red rash beneath her belly button, fold the plastic liner of the disposable diaper outward so that only the soft part touches the skin.

Besides this common diaper rash, other types that can appear on a baby's bottom need more special treatment:

  • A rash from a food allergy may be identified by a red ring around the anus, and it could mean she's reacting to too much of a food that's just been introduced (such as orange juice or tomatoes). In this case, limiting those foods should help.
  • Yeast rashes, often brought on by antibiotic use, appear as raised, reddish-pink patches or bumps with distinct borders. Call your pediatrician, who may recommend an over-the-counter or prescription antifungal cream.
  • While rare, a bacterial rash, which appears as dime-size blisters that ooze a honey-colored crust and is most prominent around the buttocks, will need a prescription antibiotic cream.

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