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Causes and Treatment of Common Diaper Rashes

Diaper rashes are extremely common in infants and toddlers.  Common causes include irritant diaper rash, yeast, bacteria, and allergic dermatitis.



Irritant diaper rash is caused by wet, and often acidic, stool and urine combined with friction from the diaper.  This causes the skin to become red and sometimes even skin breakdown can occur.

  • Treatments include frequent diaper changes, avoiding harsh wipes or scrubbing the skin, the use of thick barrier creams such as zinc oxide or petroleum jelly, and choosing diapers that are highly absorbent and the correct size for your baby.


Once the skin becomes irritated it makes it much easier for infections such as yeast or bacteria to grow.

Yeast growth is caused by a common fungus that lives in the gastrointestinal tract.  The appearance will often be bright red or pink patches with identifiable edges or borders.  There may also be small pink or red bumps of lesions.  It can occur anywhere in the diaper but is usually worst in the groin folds.

  • In addition to the above treatment for irritation, your doctor may recommend or prescribe an anti-fungal topical cream to treat the yeast.
  • Increasing time out of the diaper is also important to the healing process, especially when yeast is present.


Bacteria growth in the diaper is called impetigo and can occur anywhere on the body, especially when the skin is already irritated, dry, or breaking.  Bright red skin around the anus and yellow or “honey color” discharge, weeping, or crusting are signs of potential bacteria.

  • Bacteria/Impetigo is treated with a prescription topical antibiotic ointment in addition to the treatments of general diaper irritation/rash discussed above.


Allergic diaper rash, sometimes called contact dermatitis, is usually caused from an allergic sensitivity to an ingredient in the diaper, creams, wipes, or other products used in the diaper area.  Dyes, fragrances, and elastics are some common causes of allergic diaper dermatitis.  The rash may appear red and raised, and may only occur in certain areas, such as the waist area of the diaper, or areas where the products are applied.

  • General diaper care and changing or avoiding the allergic trigger is the mail treatment, although in some cases your pediatrician may recommend topical corticosteroid creams, such as hydrocortisone, along with these changes.


Call or see your pediatrician if the rash is worsening or not improving with general diaper irritation treatment after several days, there are bright red lesions, crusting, weeping, discharge, or if the rash is especially painful or associated with a fever.



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