Q: What is the best way to treat diaper rash?

A: Common, everyday diaper rash is usually a bright red, flat rash that results when a baby's skin is exposed to prolonged wetness from a wet or dirty diaper. The best way to prevent it is changing your baby's diaper as soon as she's wet. But before you start feeling guilty, you should know that some babies will get diaper rash no matter what -- despite your most conscientious efforts to change them ASAP.

To soothe diaper rash, I recommend soaking your baby in an oatmeal bath, which is incredibly soothing and healing. In general, keep the skin from having prolonged periods of wetness. After baths, dry your baby's bottom well or let it air dry, then slather it with an anti-diaper rash cream like Vaseline or A+D ointment before putting on a clean diaper. The cream creates a barrier between your baby's skin and irritating wetness, helping the rash to heal. Don't use cornstarch powder, which can cause yeast to grow and lead to a secondary rash. While the rash is healing, you should also avoid using baby wipes (which can really sting) or any perfumed soap or bubble bath.

Diaper rash usually heals within five days or so, but if your baby has a more stubborn case, or if the rash blisters, give your pediatrician a call. A hydrocortisone ointment, anti-fungal cream, or antibiotic may be needed to clear it. Never use an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream to treat diaper rash without your doctor's okay; if used incorrectly, this can make symptoms worse or cause other side effects.

If your baby tends to get diaper rashes frequently, you might want to switch to a sensitive-skin baby wipe, without aloe, alcohol, or fragrance of any kind. And since many disposable diapers contain dyes and perfumes, you might also want to give cloth diapers a try. On the other hand, if you're already using cloth diapers, run them through an extra rinse cycle to be sure you're getting rid of all the detergent, which can trigger diaper rash for some babies. Finally, if the diaper rashes are persisting despite these changes, let your pediatrician know, because it could be a sign of an uncommon nutritional deficiency.

Copyright 2009 Meredith Corporation.

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