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Diaper rash (diaper dermatitis) is a skin problem caused by the skin staying wet, rubbing from the diaper, and contact with chemicals in the urine and stool. The skin may look red, raw, scalded, or burned. While a diaper rash is uncomfortable, generally it is not a serious problem.
Diaper rash is the most common skin problem in babies and young children, but it can occur at any age if diapers or incontinence briefs are worn. Diaper rash occurs most often in babies between the ages of 9 and 12 months. It often occurs in babies who sleep for many hours without waking so the wet diaper is on them longer.
An adult may develop a rash in the genital area if he or she cannot wash the genital area well. If an adult does not have complete bowel or bladder control (incontinence), he or she may use incontinence briefs. These briefs can cause skin irritation or a person may be allergic to the perfumes in the material. This type of rash is very similar to a baby's diaper rash. Home treatment measures may help the rash go away.
Fungal or bacterial infections may be the cause of the diaper rash. The skin may be red and swollen with a mild rash or blister and peel in a severe rash. A diaper rash that becomes raw, oozes fluid, or bleeds is harder to treat.
The most common causes of diaper rash include:
A diaper rash may also be a sign of abuse or neglect.
Sometimes a diaper rash may occur with other skin problems, such as psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, or seborrhea. The rash may be red and oozing. A crust may form, and there will often be similar patches of rash on other parts of the body.
Most diaper rashes last about 24 hours and can be treated at home. The rash clears up when the diapers are changed more often, careful washing and cleaning of the skin is done, or nonprescription ointments are put on the area. Treatment for diaper rash is the same for both children and adults.
Check the person's symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Symptoms of a more serious infection in the diaper area may include:
These symptoms usually last more than 2 days (48 hours) without getting better. A milder diaper rash usually will start to improve sooner.
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical care.
Signs that diaper rash may be a fungal infection include:
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
Home treatment is generally all that is needed for most cases of diaper rash. At the first sign of a diaper rash, try the following steps:
If the diaper rash does not get better after several days, try the following steps.
When treating a diaper rash:
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:
The following simple steps can help prevent diaper rash.
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the following questions:
Last Revised: February 21, 2012
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
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