Diaper Rash

What is it?

A diaper rash is usually due to chafing or wetness from a diaper, but it can also be caused by a skin infection due to yeast or bacteria.

What are the symptoms?

  • Wetness or diaper chafing - Some of the skin covered by the diaper will appear red and puffy as a result of diaper chafing, too much time in a wet or dirty diaper, or chemicals and fragrances in a disposable diaper, baby wipes or laundry detergent.
  • Yeast (candida) infection - Tiny red spots that multiply and may run together into a raised, patchy bright or dark red rash with distinct borders. The affected area is red and may be tender or painful, and the rash can creep into the folds of skin around your baby's genitals and legs. It very seldom appears on the buttocks.
  • Seborrheic dermatitis - Although rare, it is one of the worst looking diaper rashes. It appears as a big red rash that extends from the lower abdomen to the groin and genitalia. It is raised, rough, thick, and greasy.
  • Eczema - Also known as atopic dermatitis, eczema is characterized by red scaly patches that show up on the legs and in the groin area.
  • Bacterial infections - Bacterial infections such as impetigo are rare. They are characterized by oozing yellow patches or pus-filled pimples. The rash tends to show up on the buttocks, but it can start at the umbilical cord or anus and spread from there.

How can I prevent and treat a diaper rash?

Take these steps to reduce your child's exposure to allergens:

  • A dry baby is your best defense! - Change the diaper as soon as it becomes wet or soiled.
  • Clean and dry the genital area thoroughly after each bowel movement.
  • Apply a thin layer of protective ointment.
  • Introduce new foods one at a time, and wait a few days between introductions to determine if a rash develops due to a food allergy.
  • Keep diapers and clothing loose enough to allow air to circulate.
  • Avoid detergents with fragrances.
  • Breastfeed if possible.

If your baby does get a diaper rash try the following:

  • Change diapers frequently.
  • Use a barrier ointment after every diaper change to protect your child's skin from stool and urine.
  • Leave the diaper off for as long as possible every day.
  • If your baby has sensitive skin, avoid commercial diaper wipes that contain alcohol, fragrance, or other chemicals.
  • A mild case of diaper rash should clear up after three or four days.
  • If the rash persists, spreads, or otherwise worsens contact your health care provider.

Important additional information

Contact your health care provider if the rash has blisters or open sores or if the rash does not improve after three days.

The following are examples of over-the-counter (OTC) medications that can be used to treat the symptoms of a diaper rash:

Symptom relief Helpful medications Active ingredients* to look for in generic and name brand OTC products

Diaper rash


Zinc Oxide


Note: This information is intended to provide readers with health information. The information provided is not a substitute for consultation with a healthcare provider. Brand names included on this Web page are provided for examples only. Their inclusion does not mean that they are endorsed by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina.