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Ask Dr. Sears: Tender Bottoms

Q. Our 6-month-old has been getting diaper rashes quite often. What causes this, and is there anything we can do to avoid them?

A. Babies of even the most attentive diaper changers get rashes at one time or another. It's not surprising  -- sensitive baby skin chafes easily and becomes sore when in contact with moisture for too long. The rash is further aggravated by the enzymes in the poop. And a change in diet, such as starting on solids, may present even more potential irritants.

For babies prone to diaper rash, here's how to help alleviate it and prevent future problems:

Change dirty diapers as soon as possible. The longer skin stays wet and soiled, the longer it's susceptible to chafing and infection.

Experiment with various kinds. Different brands of diapers work best for different babies, so you might try a new one each week until you find the right level of absorbancy.

Clean your baby's bottom with warm water every time you change him; use unscented hypoallergenic wipes or, if possible, a mild soap after bowel movements. Gently blot dry with a soft towel  -- rubbing sore skin can make it worse. Avoid scented wipes, which contain chemicals and other irritants.

Always apply a zinc-oxideÐbased cream or ointment, which provides a barrier between skin and moisture.

Let your baby air-dry for a few minutes or longer between changes.

Make sure the diaper is loose enough to allow for breathing room. If the rash hasn't improved within a few days, see your doctor  -- it may have become a fungal or bacterial infection, treatable with medication.