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Harvard Medical School
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General Medical Questions
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Question : I have a 16-month-old who has been prone to diaper rashes and yeast infections. What do you suggest?
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Henry H. Bernstein, D.O., is a senior lecturer in Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. In addition, he is chief of General Academic Pediatrics at Children's Hospital at Dartmouth and professor of pediatrics at Dartmouth Medical School. He is the former associate chief of General Pediatrics and director of Primary Care at Children's Hospital Boston.

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August 08, 2013
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Diaper rash is very common and often makes babies uncomfortable. It can be caused by:

  • Not changing a diaper for a long period of time
  • Frequent bowel movements
  • Adding solid foods to the diet
  • Wearing overly tight diapers
  • Being on antibiotics

Antiobiotics kill bacteria that cause infections. But they also promote an overgrowth of yeast (fungus), often resulting in diaper rash.

When your baby has diaper rash, it’s important to treat it as soon as possible so that the area does not get even more irritated. To prevent or treat a diaper rash, you should change your baby’s wet or soiled diaper promptly. Chemicals in urine cling to the diaper lining. And this can irritate your baby’s skin and cause the rash.

Clean the area with just lukewarm water and a soft cloth. Then apply a thick layer of diaper cream or paste. This blocks the urine and stool from touching the skin or irritating it further. As long as the skin underneath is clean, you do not have to wipe off the cream at each diaper change. Take off just enough to remove any urine or stool, leaving some to protect the skin. And then add another layer of diaper cream.

Cornstarch may also help by absorbing moisture and reducing friction. Some studies have shown that cornstarch does not make yeast infections worse. However, do not use the cornstarch near your baby's face. And avoid using any powder that contains talcum, baking soda or boric acid. If inhaled, these substances can harm the lungs.

It’s also important to let air circulate in the diaper area. So, if you can, let your baby go without a diaper from time to time. Or just put the diaper on a bit more loosely. This prevents moisture from being trapped in the diaper, which can cause more irritation and a yeast infection to get worse.

If symptoms do not start to improve or seem to be getting worse after 3 to 4 days, speak with your child's doctor.

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