Diaper dermatitis, commonly known as diaper rash, is a very common condition in babies. “It is estimated that one in four babies will experience at least one diaper rash episode in his lifetime. Between 25 and 65% of babies who wear a diaper have diaper dermatitis, and three out of four go to the pediatrician for this problem”, says Dr. Víctor Mundo, pediatrician and Medical Affairs Consumer Health at Bayer, Mexico.
What do diaper rashes look like?
According to the Mayo Clinic, diaper rash is an inflammation of the skin that appears as a patchwork of pink or bright red spots. It can also be seen as irritation, fissures, abrasions, and peeling of the skin. It usually occurs as a rash in the area that is covered by the diaper, hence the name. That is, it affects the genitals, buttocks, perineum, lower abdomen, and upper thighs. The skin is a very important organ with many functions: It protects our internal organs, it is the main layer of our immune system that prevents our body from coming into contact with microorganisms.
• It is essential to regulate our body temperature, this is the reason why we sweat and perspire
• It allows us to have different sensations
• Thanks to melanin, a substance that gives color to our skin, it protects us from UV rays and helps our cells produce vitamin D.
• It constantly regenerates itself
“In general terms, the upper part of the skin is called the epidermis, but at its base there are cells that are like moms because they grow new cells which develop until they become old. The most superficial layer of these cells, when mature, is the stratocornus and it is what we see when we exfoliate the skin, they are dead cells that come out. I mention this because in babies the upper outer layer of the skin is very fragile, thin, has a very important permeability and being immature makes it more susceptible to being damaged”, explains the pediatrician.
What causes diaper rash
Normally, diaper rashes are caused by prolonged contact of the baby’s skin with irritating substances: urine, stool, detergents and fragrances, but also by the simple rubbing of the diaper. “Both urine and stool cause a change in the PH of the babies’ skin. The enzymes contained in the baby’s waste damage and irritate the skin. Prolonged exposure to urine and stool is an important risk factor”, says the specialist. Another factor that causes chafing is moisture and rubbing against the diaper. “Prolonged wetness and the friction that the skin is having with the diaper weakens the outer layer and increases the possibility of friction damage. In addition, another conditioning factor is when the diaper is very tight. Artificial fragrances and scented diapers can also be risk factors, “Fortunately, they are used less and less nowadays, but there are perfumes, preservatives and dyes that can aggravate diaper rash.”
How to prevent diaper rash
According to Dr. Mundo, these are some measures we can take to prevent annoying diaper rash.
Maintain proper hygiene
Frequent diaper changes are highly recommended. Prolonged contact with stool and urine is a risk factor. Clean your baby’s bottom with warm water. You can use cotton balls, but make sure there is no lint left behind, wet wipes are also useful. Do not use wipes that contain alcohol or perfume.
Dry the area well
You can use a towel or leave your baby without a diaper for a while to air dry. If you notice chafing, do not rub the skin with the towel as it can aggravate the irritation.
Use a protective cream
“Especially use one that contains dexpanthenol, which is a precursor of vitamin B5 or pantothenic acid. This vitamin helps skin cells regenerate. In addition, it protects, moisturizes and prevents the area from being too much moist”, says the doctor.
Don’t overtighten the diaper
When you change the diaper, be careful not to close it too tight. “It is also good for the baby to breathe well. The tapes can make his abdomen not distend appropriately. Try not to overtighten it and have a diaper of the right size, remember that they come in different sizes”, he adds.
How long does diaper rash last?
According to Dr. Mundo, depending on the severity, diaper rash lasts between one and three days.
“This is very important because many children experience situations where they cannot sleep, they are crying, that is the way they express their annoyance. It has also been noticed that it occurs in a greater proportion in girls and boys between 9 and 12 months of age. It does not mean that the youngest children do not have it, but the highest peak of diaper dermatitis is at this stage and 5% of these cases can be aggravated”, concludes the expert.
Translated by: Ligia M. Oliver Manrique de Lara
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