Preventing diaper rash

Although not every case of diaper rash can be avoided, using preventive techniques can reduce damage.

Not every case of diaper rash can be prevented. Teething, diarrhea, and antibiotic use can all contribute to this common problem, but there are defenses that can help reduce the damage.

It’s not just the presence of urine and feces as an irritant on the surface of skin that causes the problem, according to research. Continued wetness from diapering and what is held in the diaper can lead to degradation of the skin surface as well as increased permeability.1 This can make any irritant like urine or stool even more irritating.

Protecting skin is key, and this can be done in several ways. Diaper changes as soon as possible after elimination is first. This reduces the amount of time moisture and irritants are in contact with the skin. Moisture is another key prevention tool that is often overlooked.

Barrier creams tend to get most of the glory when it comes to diaper rash prevention and treatment, but simple emollients applied at least twice a week1 and even plain petroleum jelly2 can help moisturize the skin and reduce its permeability to irritants.

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers the following tips to help prevent diaper rash3:

  1. Change diapers frequently and as soon as possible after elimination.
  2. Clean skin gently with water or mild soaps and non-abrasive cloths.
  3. Coat the skin with a thick layer of topical barrier product. There is no need to remove barrier treatments between diaper changes if it is not soiled and remains intact. Removing the paste may be more irritating than just reapplying.
  4. Use diaper products that are highly absorbent.
  5. Create breathing room by making sure that diapers are not secured too tightly. This can increase friction and irritation.
  6. Keep skin clean and hydrated. Daily baths and moisturizing can keep skin healthy and better prepared to withstand irritants.

References

1. Blume-Peytavi U, Kanti V. Prevention and treatment of diaper dermatitis. Pediatric Dermatology. 2018;35(S1):s19-s23. doi: 10.1111/pde.13495.

2. Alonso C, Larburu I, Bon E, et al. Efficacy of petrolatum jelly for the prevention of diaper rash: a randomized clinical trial. Journal for Specialists in Pediatric Nursing. 2013;18(2):123-132. doi:10.1111/jspn.12022

3. Polcari I. Common diaper rashes and treatment. Published January 15, 2020. Accessed October 5, 2021. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/diapers-clothing/Pages/Diaper-Rash.aspx