Diaper Rash: How To Prepare And Protect Your Baby

Most babies will have diaper rash (often also known as diaper dermatitis) at least once, even with superabsorbent diaper technology and frequent diaper changes. In most cases, mild diaper rash will clear up in a few days with simple treatment, and your baby’s skin will be back to normal.

Find out more about what causes diaper rash (hint: it’s not diapers), common symptoms, and how you can treat this condition as quickly as possible and prevent it from reoccurring.

What Is Diaper Rash?

Diaper dermatitis, also known as diaper rash, is one of the most common conditions among infants, affecting more than half of babies. A baby with diaper rash will have red, tender, and flaky skin in the diapered area.

related baby tool
Baby Growth - Tool Icon

Baby Growth Chart Calculator

Keep an eye on your baby’s average growth by tracking height, weight, and head circumference with our simple tool.

What is your child*
This is a mandatory field.

This is a mandatory field.

This is a mandatory field.

This is a mandatory field.

This is a mandatory field.

*Input details of your baby’s last measurements. **Source: World Health Organization

What Does Diaper Rash Look Like?

Common symptoms of diaper rash include:

  • Red bumps along with larger reddened areas of the skin around the diaper area or in the folds of your baby’s upper thighs

  • Peeling, flaking, or scaly skin

  • The affected area may look puffy and tender, and feel warm to the touch

  • Your baby seems irritable or fussy

If the rash comes from a skin infection caused by yeast or bacteria, for example, then you might see more severe diaper rash signs, such as:

  • Blisters or open sores

  • Pus-filled blisters

  • Watery fluid or pus seeping from reddened patches

Remember, it’s possible your baby may be experiencing something different than diaper rash. For example, cradle cap and eczema are two other common conditions that present with similar symptoms to diaper rash. More information on how to recognize those rashes can be found here.

What Causes Diaper Rash?

It’s important to remember that diapers do not cause diaper rashes. Even with frequent diaper changes, diaper rash can still affect your baby; however, it commonly occurs when the skin is exposed to urine or stool for an extended period of time and becomes irritated.

Diaper rash can be caused by a variety of factors, such as an increase in pH, excess skin hydration, friction, microbes, and irritants in bowel movement. Explore some of the factors below.


The most common cause of diaper rash is skin irritation, resulting from:

  • Sitting in a soiled diaper and being exposed to urineor stool for long periods of time, disrupting pH

  • Enzymes found in stool can increase the skin’s pH level, leading to skin irritation and redness as they break down the protective lipids and proteins in the skin

  • Diarrhea, which can bring the skin in frequent contact with loose stools

  • Teething, which leads to increased production and swallowing of saliva, which may affect the stool

  • Extended periods of wetness in the diapered area can lead to overhydrated skin, which is more easily damaged, prone to chaffing, and leading to an increase in microbial growth

  • A tight-fitting diaper or tight clothing that causes chaffing or rubbing

  • Symptoms and Treatment

  • What to look for: Pink or red patches in the diaper area. The folds near the groin will usually look normal

  • What to do about it: Make sure to change your baby’s diaper regularly, keep the diaper area clean, and apply a diaper cream. It’s also a good idea to use a well-fitting highly absorbent diaper that isn’t too tight and doesn't chafe against your baby’s skin. It’s also important to choose wipes with a pH-buffering capability to help maintain a balanced skin pH in the diapered area

Yeast (Fungus) Infection

Another common type of diaper rash is a yeast infection, resulting from an overgrowth of fungus located in the digestive tract. In some instances, a yeast infection can develop after your baby’s completed a course of antibiotics, or if you’ve taken antibiotics while breastfeeding. Antibiotics can kill both good and bad bacteria, leading to a yeast infection or diarrhea, which irritates the diapered area.

Symptoms and Treatment

  • What to look for: Shiny, bright red patches with sharp edges. There may even be pink bumps or pimples, sores, or cracked skin that oozes or bleeds. A fungal diaper rash is often more severe when it appears in the folds of your baby’s groin

  • What to do about it: If you suspect this kind of diaper rash, contact your baby’s healthcare provider, who may prescribe a topical antifungal cream. Be sure to wash your hands before and after any diaper change to prevent the spread of the fungus

Bacterial Infection

Although cases are rare, diaper rash can come from a bacterial infection called impetigo, caused by either the staph or strep bacteria. This can lead to diaper rash or make an existing diaper rash worse.

Symptoms and Treatment

  • What to look for: A strep infection will often show up as bright red skin around your baby’s anus, whereas a staph infection may appear as yellow crusting, weeping, or pimples

  • What to do about it: If you believe your baby’s diaper rash may be due to a bacterial infection, see your baby’s healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment. Don’t use an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment to treat the diaper rash, unless it’s recommended by your child’s provider


Your baby may also be sensitive or allergic to certain substances or ingredients, such as:

  • Dyes in soap, laundry detergent, or fabric softeners

  • Elastic in diapers

  • Ingredients in baby powder, lotions, oils, ointments, and creams

  • Food— allergens can be passed on to your baby through breast milk, or through anything your baby eats once they have started eating solid foods

Symptoms and Treatment

  • What to look for: A rash may show up shortly after exposure to the allergen

  • What to do about it: Consider switching to another type of diaper, wipe, or cream for a two-week period to see if that helps clear up the rash. If a food allergy is suspected, remove that food from your baby’s diet. See your baby’s healthcare provider for a diagnosis, possible testing, and treatment recommendations

Other Causes Of Diaper Rash

There are other conditions to look out for that can also cause diaper rash. For example, the rash may actually be seborrheic dermatitis, a condition in which the glands of the skin produce too much oil. Or the rash may be triggered by a genetic condition like acrodermatitis enteropathica, which is a zinc deficiency.

If you believe your baby’s diaper rash may be due to one of these conditions, or if you’re not sure what’s causing the rash, see your little one’s healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

How To Treat And Prevent Diaper Rash

Diaper rash normally clears up within three or four days when treated properly. If the rash persists and doesn’t clear up in a few days, seek advice or schedule an appointment with your healthcare professional.

The steps for treating diaper rash and preventing it are very similar. Below are a few guidelines you can follow if your baby is experiencing symptoms:

  • Change your baby’s diaper regularly. When your baby has a wet or dirty diaper, change it promptly. Moisture from a dirty diaper can quickly lead to diaper rash, as both urine and the digestive enzymes in stool contain irritants. Read more on how often to change a diaper

  • Use diaper cream. Apply a thick layer — like icing a cake — of diaper rash cream or ointment that contains petroleum jelly or zinc oxide. It will keep your baby’s delicate skin protected by forming a barrier against moisture (read more about diaper rash creams)

  • Keep your baby’s skin clean. Use pH-balancing wipesthat are free of alcohol and fragrance. Alternatively, you can also clean your baby’s skin with water and a non-soap/gentle cleanser. Try not to rub the rash and gently pat the skin to allow it to air-dry. Apply a thick layer of barrier paste on the diaper area before putting on a fresh diaper

  • Choose the right size of diaper. Make sure that your baby’s diaper fits properly. A diaper that’s too tight, especially at night, blocks airflow and can also lead to a diaper rash caused by chafing. Consider using a slightly larger diaper while your baby is recovering from diaper rash

  • Let your baby go commando. When you can, let your baby go without a diaper. For example, you could spread out a clean towel on the floor during tummy timeand keep your baby’s diaper off for a while. Exposing their skin to the air helps eliminate excess moisture and reduces the time spent in close contact with diapers if friction is the cause of the irritation

The Bottom Line

Remember: there are many different potential causes of diaper rash, including irritants, allergens, and infections from bacteria or yeast—but not a diaper itself. In some rare cases, a rash in the diaper area may also be caused by a genetic condition. With help from your child’s healthcare provider, you can receive an expert diagnosis and treatment for managing symptoms.

Consider trying our Pampers® Swaddlers and Pampers® Sensitive™ Wipes together as a diapering regimen. These two powerhouse products are scientifically demonstrated to work together to balance pH levels, improving overall skin health and providing the ultimate comfort for your baby.

How We Wrote This Article The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, as well as Pampers’ own safety and product experts. When applicable, you can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.