may 2023

Nappy Rash Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Learn more about the symptoms of nappy rashes and the best treatments, as recommended by our expert midwives.

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A baby with nappy rash having his nappy changed.
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Nappy rashes, or diaper rash, are among the most common skin irritations in newborns and young children. Learn more about the symptoms of nappy rash and the best treatments, as recommended by our expert midwives.

How to spot nappy rash in your baby

So, what does nappy rash look like?

When skin has been in contact with urine (wee) or faeces (poo) for any prolonged period, the delicate skin of a baby can break down. This can present as red patches on your baby’s bottom, irritation or, more seriously, as heat, nappy rash blisters, or raw patches. Sometimes the skin may appear shiny or weeping and even bloody.

In addition to visual signs of nappy rash, your baby may be displaying behaviours showing that they are uncomfortable or in pain due to their sore bum, such as crying, being grizzly, unsettled or reluctant to be bathed or have their nappy area cleaned.

Is nappy rash common?

Nappy rash is common. In fact, it is probably the most common skin problem amongst newborn babies, and it is rare to come across parents that have not had to deal with a case of mild nappy rash at least once.

You may have been told that your baby will not, or will be less likely to, be affected by nappy rash if you use a certain type of nappy: a certain brand of disposable or to ditch the disposables and choose reusable cloth nappies. Alas, there is no holy grail of nappy that will prevent nappy rash, or that can claim it has lower rates than others.

The key to dealing with nappy rash is quite simply to:

  • Recognise the symptoms.
  • React and Respond quickly and accordingly with treatment and/or by seeking advice from a healthcare professional if necessary.
  • Resolve the nappy rash symptoms, aim to identify what caused it and prevent it from occurring again.

Leading causes of nappy rash in babies

As already mentioned, nappy rash is primarily caused by exposure to wee and/or poo and, although it is usually prolonged exposure that causes it, sometimes it can happen in a short space of time – for example, if your baby is unwell.

Prolonged exposure to wet and dirty nappies. Wee contains ammonia which can irritate the skin, or even ‘burn’ it, if left in contact with your baby’s skin. Poo contains bacteria which, if not cleaned away, can cause bacterial infections of the skin.

Friction caused by both disposable and cloth/reusable nappies can cause nappy rash.

  • Nappies that are too big or too small can rub your baby’s fragile skin and lead to damage, blisters, and infection.
  • Ensure you use appropriately sized nappies and that you fasten them properly without leaving any rough bits in contact with their skin.
  • Smooth out any wrinkly bits and think about the liner if using reusable/cloth nappies, as this could cause friction.

Allergies or sensitivities in babies often result in skin that is irritable, sore, red and at risk of infection

  • Look out for allergies/sensitivities to formula milks and foods, or to products such as baby wipes, soaps, or de