Nappy rash is inflammation of the skin around the nappy area caused by irritation. It is a common skin condition which mainly affects babies although it can affect anyone who is unable to control bowel or bladder activity.

Nappy rash appears on the buttocks, inner thighs, lower abdomen and around the genitals. The rash can be red, spotty, painful, hot, burning and itchy. It is usually worse in creases and skin folds. In severe cases, blisters and weeping sores can develop.

Causes

  • Babies have thin, delicate skin which can easily become irritated and inflamed. A baby's skin could be irritated by any of the following:
    • Ammonia Ammonia is produced in a dirty nappy when bacteria from the faeces start to break down the urine
    • Urine & Faeces:The urine and faeces themselves could irritate the skin
    • Wetness. Waterlogged skin can cause sweat glands to become blocked which can cause a rash
    • Friction A nappy rubbing against a baby's skin could cause irritation
  • Detergents Strong soaps or detergents could produce an allergic reaction
  • Thrush Thrush is caused by the yeast-like fungus Candida albicans. It can develop on the surface of the skin, particularly around the nappy area, causing redness and white patches

Avoiding Nappy Rash

  • Nappies should be changed as soon as they are dirty
  • A baby should be bathed or washed regularly. The nappy area should be kept especially clean
  • A baby's skin should be thoroughly dried after being washed. This is especially important in skin creases and folds
  • A baby's bottom should be left exposed to the air as much as possible. This will dry out the skin and allow it to 'breathe'
  • Strong detergents or biological washing powders should not be used to wash towelling nappies if a baby suffers from nappy rash. Instead, towelling nappies should be washed in a gentle detergent and then thoroughly rinsed
  • One-way nappy liners can be used with towelling nappies to draw moisture away from the skin
  • Avoid using plastic pants because they trap moisture and can make nappy rash worse
  • Baby wipes containing alcohol may irritate a baby's skin
  • Barrier preparations can be applied to the skin after changing to prevent any irritants coming into contact with the skin

Treatment

  • Nappy rash treatments usually fall into one of four categories: barrier preparations, emollients, antibacterials and antifungalsBarrier preparations can be applied to the skin after changing to prevent any irritants coming into contact with the skinEmollients soften, soothe and hydrate the skin and are available from pharmacies as ointments, creams and lotionsAntibacterial agents are present in some barrier creams which can help to kill bacteriaAntifungals can be bought over the counter at most pharmacies to treat nappy rash complicated by thrush
  • Talcum powders are also available which can be applied to a baby's skin after changing. At one time they were widely used to absorb moisture and to stop nappies rubbing against the skin. However, they are no longer recommended because the powder can clump together and rub the skin when applied to moist areas, which can make nappy rash worse. If used, the fine powder should not be inhaled by the carer or baby

When To See A Doctor

Any signs of infection such as weeping sores or broken skin should be reported to a doctor. If thrush does not clear up after being treated for five days with an antifungal, a doctor should be consulted.

Additional Information

Information about thrush is also available from any pharmacy.