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Baby having a nappy changed.

Baby having a nappy changed.
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Nappy rash

3-minute read

What is nappy rash?

Nappy rash is a very common skin condition in children under 2. It’s caused by the skin coming into contact with urine (wee) and faeces (poo) in the nappy. Mild cases are usually painless but severe nappy rash can cause discomfort and distress to babies.

What are the symptoms of nappy rash?

The main symptom of nappy rash is red, raw skin in the nappy area. The rash might spread to the baby’s tummy or up their back. The skin might be raised or swollen.

Sometimes the rash is spotty. It will be sore and itchy for your baby. This can make them irritable or unsettled.

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the rashes and skin problems Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

What causes nappy rash?

Nappy rash is usually caused by skin irritation, usually from moisture from your baby’s wees or poos, or from the nappy rubbing.

Sometimes nappy rash is cause by bacteria, yeasts, soaps or detergents, or baby wipes.

Some conditions can make nappy rash worse. These include eczema, psoriasis, thrush or impetigo.

When should I see a doctor?

See a doctor if:

  • the rash doesn’t clear up in one week
  • there are blisters, crusts or pimples
  • your baby has a fever
  • the rash is spreading
  • your baby is very upset
  • if you have a son, the end of his penis is red and swollen or has a scab

Your doctor or pharmacist may need to give you a medicated cream to treat the nappy rash. If it is caused by eczema or a skin infection, your doctor will need to give you the right treatment.

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How is nappy rash treated?

If your baby has nappy rash there are a number of things you can do to help manage the condition:

  • use good quality, disposable nappies
  • try to leave your baby’s nappy off whenever possible. This will keep your baby’s skin dry and away from any contact with wee or poo. Try laying your baby on a towel during tummy time or any floor play. You should always watch that they have not wet or soiled the towel so that they are not left on a damp towel
  • only use warm water to clean the rash area
  • avoid soaps and perfumed baby wipes as these can irritate the skin
  • use soft towels or cotton wool when drying the skin, and dab the area gently
  • apply a barrier cream after changing every nappy. Products containing zinc cream, zinc oxide ointment and petroleum jelly are all suitable. You can also ask your pharmacist about nappy rash creams
  • do not use talcum powder or antiseptics

Can nappy rash be prevented?

Prevent nappy rash by keeping your baby’s skin clean and dry. To do this, change nappies regularly. A baby under 12 months should have between 5 and 7 new nappies every day.

Complications of nappy rash

Nappy rash may predispose the skin to develop a yeast infection, known as thrush. This looks like bright red, shiny patches or spots in the nappy area. See your doctor if you think your baby has thrush.

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Last reviewed: September 2021

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