Diaper Rash or Nappy Rash: Identification, Causes and Treatment

November 12, 2012

Diaper Rash or Nappy Rash: Identification, Causes and Treatment

In America, it’s called diaper rash. In the UK and Australia, it’s called nappy rash. But no matter what name you call it, it means a sore, cranky baby that needs help. If left untreated, nappy rash can lead to a nasty bacterial or yeast skin infection. Untreated diaper rash can also cause the growth of pustules or crusting on the baby’s sensitive bottom and groin areas.

It is inevitable that at some point a baby will develop diaper rash, no matter how often the diaper is changed or what type of diaper it wears. It most often appears on babies that are at least seven months old but less than a year old. Diaper rash is not a sign of neglect or abuse. The only way to completely prevent nappy rash is to not allow the baby to wear diapers. This is not a feasible option for most Western countries.

Identification of Diaper Rash

Affected babies have groins or buttocks with red blotchy skin. These red blotches first appear pink and stretch across the baby’s skin in an irregular pattern. The baby will usually cry or struggle if these red skin areas are touched.

Most babies can be successfully treated at home for diaper rash. Complications rarely develop. Call a doctor or pediatrician immediately:

  • If the baby develops a fever
  • If the affected skin becomes swollen, oozes a liquid or bleeds
  • If the affective skin starts to peel off
  • If the rash keeps on getting larger and larger
  • If the rash doesn’t go away after home remedies fail to work.

In these cases, the baby may have an infection and needs antibiotics or other medications.


There are three main causes of nappy rash – the baby’s bottom has been too wet for too long; result of another illness or an allergy to something coming in contact with the baby’s skin. It can be very difficult to try and prevent all of these causes, so parents and caretakers need to be vigilant about beginning treatment as soon as they see the first symptoms of nappy rash.

Illnesses that may trigger symptoms of diaper rash include impetigo, which is a skin infection that causes painful, liquid-filled blisters. Other illnesses include eczema (which can appear all over the baby’s skin or just some areas) and thrush. These are all treatable illnesses. Babies can be allergic to nappy materials, detergent, soap or the sheets it lays on. This allergy, known as contact dermatitis, can cause nappy rash until the allergen is identified and kept far away from the baby.

Treatment Tips

A baby with nappy rash needs its nappy changed more frequently. Be sure to clean the baby’s bottom with a mild soap. Avoid any wipes with alcohol in them. This ritual should include letting the baby’s bottom air out for several minutes, which gives the sensitive skin time to dry. Put on a protective cream before placing on a new nappy.

If the baby is wearing plastic pants, remove them. Plastic will keep any moisture next to the baby’s skin.

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