Almost every baby will experience it at least once before they’re potty trained, says Irene Lara-Corrales, a staff dermatologist at the Hospital for Sick Children and assistant professor in the department of paediatrics at the University of Toronto. “The most common cause of diaper rash is contact with urine and stool, but friction caused by the diaper rubbing against the skin also exacerbates the problem,” she says. In some cases, a yeast infection (characterized by small red dots around the edges of the affected area) can also develop along with the diaper rash since candida grows in warm, wet conditions.
A yeast infection will require a topical antifungal cream prescribed by your family doctor or paediatrician, but treating a regular diaper rash is pretty simple: Wash your baby’s bottom with mild soap and warm water at change time, gently pat dry and apply a barrier cream containing petroleum jelly or zinc oxide to keep moisture away from the skin. If you use baby wipes, switch to one made for sensitive skin, or try another brand. (Babies can react differently from one brand to the next; trial and error will help you discover which product works best.)
More frequent changes will also help to heal a rash — and prevent new ones. (Eight to 10 changes a day should keep her as dry as possible.) Contact your doctor if the breakout is severe or doesn’t begin to clear up after a few days to rule out a zinc deficiency or psoriasis (an auto-immune disease that causes red, flaky skin) which can be mistaken for diaper rash.
Exposure to air can provide relief and speed healing. Just leave your baby’s diaper off for a few minutes and let her roll, crawl or walk around, free as a bird. (But go outside or be prepared for a few accidents!)