Dr. Prerna Goenka

Consultant - Paediatrics and Neonatology

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Reviewed by

Dr. Prerna Goenka

Consultant - Paediatrics and Neonatology

Manipal Hospitals, Salt Lake

Understanding Nappy Rash: Causes And Symptoms

Reviewed by:

Dr. Prerna Goenka

Posted On: Oct 30, 2023

blogs read 3 Min Read

Nappy Rash Treatment

We all understand the delicate nature of an infant’s skin. The soft, sensitive and supple skin of a newborn is a testament to the fragility and beauty of life itself. Therefore, we try to protect these bundles of joy with all the love, care and attention. Yet, despite our best efforts, nappy or diaper rash can be a common irritant to babies. It affects their mood, and overall health and makes them a little cranky. New parents need to understand what nappy rash is, its causes, symptoms, prevention and treatment. 

Let’s embark on a journey to ensure your baby’s comfort and happiness while keeping their precious skin as smooth as can be.

What is Nappy or Diaper Rash?

Nappy rash, also known as diaper rash, is a dermatological woe that plagues most infants at some point in their early lives. It appears as an inflamed, irritated, and sometimes painful rash on the baby's skin, particularly in the diaper area. This means that the buttocks, genitals, and the area around the groin are the primary targets for nappy rash.

This uncomfortable experience often appears in the form of red patches, pustules or bumps that lead to fussiness and restlessness for your little one.

What are the Signs of Nappy Rash?

Recognising nappy rash is the first step to tackling it effectively. One can refer to the below signs and symptoms:

  • Redness: The most characteristic sign of nappy rash is redness in the affected area. It can range from a mild pink hue to a deeper, fiery red.

  • Pustules and Bumps: Small, raised pustules or bumps may appear within the red area, indicating inflammation and irritation.

  • Scaling or Peeling: The skin might start to peel or appear scaly, adding to the discomfort.

  • Warmth to the Touch: Infected skin often feels warmer than the surrounding healthy skin.

  • Irritability: Your baby may become more irritable and cry more frequently due to the discomfort caused by nappy rash.

  • Fussiness During Diaper Changes: Babies with nappy rash might become especially fussy during diaper changes, as the area is sensitive to touch and movement.


It’s important to note that not all nappy rashes are the same. Some can be mild and get healed quickly, while others can be more severe and persistent. It also can lead to skin complications if not address them promptly.



How Does Nappy Rash Occur?

Understanding the causes of nappy rash is crucial for prevention and treatment. Nappy rash can result from various factors, including:

  • Prolonged Skin Contact with Wetness - One of the most common culprits is prolonged exposure to wet or soiled diapers. The moisture can break down the skin's natural protective barrier, making it more vulnerable to irritation.

  • Friction - The friction caused by the constant rubbing of the diaper against the baby's skin can lead to chafing and, subsequently, rash formation.

  • Fungal Infections- Yeast infections, such as Candida, can thrive in the warm, moist environment created by diapers. This can further exacerbate the rash.

  • New Foods - When infants start consuming solid foods, their bowel movements change, sometimes leading to more acidic stools. This can increase the risk of nappy rash.

  • Antibiotics - If your baby is taking antibiotics, they may be more prone to nappy rash because these medications can disrupt the balance of bacteria on the skin.

How Can We Prevent Nappy Rash?

Prevention is always better than cure, and when it comes to nappy rash, a few simple steps can go a long way in keeping your baby's skin healthy:

  • Frequent Diaper Changes: Change your baby's diaper as soon as it gets wet or soiled. Keeping the area clean and dry is a crucial preventive measure.
  • Use a Barrier Cream: Applying a barrier cream, like zinc oxide, during diaper changes can provide a protective shield against moisture and irritation.
  • Avoid Tight Diapers: Ensure that the diaper is snug but not too tight, as overly tight diapers can contribute to friction and discomfort.
  • Allow for Air Circulation: Give your baby some diaper-free time to allow the skin to breathe. Lay them on a clean, dry surface and let their skin air out for a while.
  • Use Fragrance-Free Wipes and Detergents: Avoid using wipes and detergents with fragrances or harsh chemicals that can further irritate the skin.
  • Be Mindful of New Foods: If your baby is transitioning to solid foods, monitor their reaction and adjust their diet if necessary to prevent more acidic stools.


How Should We Treat Nappy Rash?

If nappy rash does occur, there are several steps you can take to alleviate your baby's discomfort and help the skin heal:

  • Keep the Area Clean: Gently clean the affected area with mild, fragrance-free baby wipes or a soft cloth. 
  • Change Diapers Often: Frequent diaper changes are crucial during the healing process to minimise exposure to moisture and irritants.
  • Apply a Barrier Cream: Using a diaper rash cream or ointment can help create a protective barrier on the skin.
  • Let the Skin Breathe: Give your baby some diaper-free time each day to allow the skin to air out.
  • Use OTC Creams: Over-the-counter antifungal creams, especially those containing zinc oxide, can be helpful if the rash is accompanied by a fungal infection.
  • Avoid Harsh Soaps: When washing your baby's diaper area, use gentle, fragrance-free soap or just plain water.


When to See a Doctor

Most cases of nappy rash can be effectively managed at home, but there are situations where it's important to consult a healthcare professional:

  • Persistent or Severe Rash: If the rash doesn't improve with home care or gets worse, it's time to seek medical advice.
  • Pustules or Blisters: The presence of pustules or blisters may indicate a secondary infection that requires medical attention.
  • High Fever: If your baby develops a fever in addition to the rash, consult a doctor promptly.
  • Open Sores or Bleeding: Any signs of open sores, bleeding, or oozing from the rash require immediate attention.
  • Signs of Allergy: If you suspect that your baby is allergic to a specific product or medication, consult a healthcare provider to discuss alternative options.


Nappy or diaper rash can bring a lot of discomfort for both the baby and the parents as caregivers. However, we can prevent this by understanding its possible causes, knowing the symptoms and giving proper care to protect your little one from this common skin woe. These minute attentions are crucial for your baby’s well-being and with the expert guide, you can keep their skin healthy and irritation-free. It is also recommended to consult with a paediatrician and childcare professional if you have any concerns, Manipal Hospitals in Kolkata can assist you with that.

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