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A diaper rash occurs in the areas of the skin that come into direct contact with diapers. This rash is a kind of skin irritation that has several causes, the most common of which is contact dermatitis. While diaper rashes most often develop in babies and toddlers under 15 months, it is also possible for adults and anyone who wears a diaper to develop this irritation of the skin.

Causes

Diaper rashes are most commonly caused by contact with irritants that trigger anything from mild redness to an erosion of the skin's topmost layers. These include:

Friction. When skin is rubbed by wet diapers, a red shiny rash is likely to develop on affected areas. This is especially true for babies, who have very sensitive skin.

Irritation. The acid contents of irritants like urine and feces that accumulate in diapers and come into direct contact with the skin can cause redness and itchiness.

Aside from irritants, there are several more factors that can cause the development of diaper rashes. The first of these factors is skin infection, normally caused by bacteria and fungi, including:

  • Staphylococcus and Streptococcus bacteria. Infections from these bacteria are known as impetigo and are characterized by small blisters that progress into multiple skin erosions.
  • Candidal infections. Yeast and fungal infections normally appear near the anal region as side effects of taking antibiotics. They are a very bright red and are caused by a fungus called Candida, which settles in moist, warm places.

Rashes are also likely to develop from the use of diaper wipes, laundry detergent, soap, and lotion. The chemicals found in these cleaning agents may be too harsh for sensitive skin. Diapers and elastics found on plastic pants can also cause an allergic reaction.

Other less common causes of diaper rash include the following:

  • unusual infections
  • a deficiency in metabolism
  • a deficiency in the immune system
  • extreme neglect of hygiene, especially for children

Symptoms

There is not much difficulty in determining the occurrence of diaper rashes. This condition is characterized by red, puffy, irritated skin in the diaper region and may or may not appear in the folds of the skin. If the rash occurs on an infant, a noticeable change in disposition, especially when the affected areas are touched, can also indicate that something is wrong.

Treatments

Diaper rashes can best be avoided by making sure any irritants are kept away from the skin. Frequent diaper changes are the best way to make sure the diaper region is always kept clean and free of any contaminants. Disposable diapers are also more advisable as opposed to cloth.

Rinsing the affected skin with water and soft cloth is the safest and most effective way to treat rashes. Regular exposure to open air and lukewarm bath water for 15-20 minutes can also help soothe irritated skin. Applying ointments with petroleum jelly or mineral oil can also aid in preventing friction and infections. In general, cornstarch, talcum powder, and baking soda should be avoided.

If these methods yield no results, there is a possibility of an infection from yeast or bacteria.

When to Call a Doctor

If symptoms persist a few days after treatment, this may be indicative of secondary infections that may need medical attention. Consult your doctor if the following occur:

  • Spreading and severe worsening of rashes in spite of treatment.
  • Fever.
  • Boils and blisters.
  • Pus and discharge.
  • Lethargy.
  • Diarrhea.

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