Are You Sure it’s Just Diaper Rash?

written by Lauren Snitzer, MD of U.S. Dermatology Partners of Sugar Land


Exploring the Differences Between Your Baby’s Chronic Skin Conditions

New moms are likely very familiar with changing skin health. During pregnancy and immediately following delivery, mothers can deal with a variety of conditions like hyperpigmentation, pregnancy acne, and eczema. These conditions lead many expectant mothers to consult with a dermatologist. That means when our baby’s skin shows signs of irritation, moms can definitely relate. Sometimes, infants can benefit from a visit to the dermatologist just like mom. Diaper rash is by far the most common skin condition that impacts babies and toddlers, but what looks like a simple rash to you may actually be something more serious like eczema or psoriasis. Working with your child’s pediatrician or local dermatologist to get an accurate diagnosis and create a plan to relieve and repair these chronic skin conditions can set your child on the road to lifelong skin health.


What is Diaper Rash?

Diaper rash is a common skin condition that can impact infants and toddlers throughout their diaper-wearing days, leading to irritation, itching, and inflammation. In rare cases, diaper rash can even cause sores and infection. Diaper rash is most often associated with wet diapers. It’s important to change a diaper as soon as you notice any moisture. If your child has persistent diaper rash that seems to be resistant to treatment, it may be time to visit your dermatologist.


How Should I Care for Diaper Rash at Home?

No matter how hard we try, it’s probably not possible to completely prevent diaper rash for our babies. However, we can help to soothe their skin and minimize discomfort. Some tips I regularly give moms for treating diaper rash at home include the following:

Apply a thick layer of diaper paste each time you change the diaper. Don’t dab on a dainty amount. Apply the diaper paste like you’re frosting a cupcake to create a protective barrier.
Beware of allergic response to preservatives in premoistened wipes (even those for sensitive skin!). Allergies can be responsible for resistant diaper rash. Discontinue all premoistened wipes and see if diaper rash improves.

In most cases, over the counter diaper pastes are adequate, but if diaper rash is resistant, your pediatrician may recommend antifungal, antibacterial, or steroid creams.


When Should I Take My Child to a Dermatologist Instead of the Pediatrician?

Pediatricians are well versed in treating common infant skin conditions like diaper rash and eczema. For those kids who seem to constantly have rashes that do not respond to traditional treatments, working with a dermatologist is the next step. In most cases, your pediatrician is the determining factor here. He or she will refer you to a dermatologist if your child’s diaper rash isn’t improving. Additionally, your pediatrician may recommend visiting a dermatologist if there’s a concern that your child’s diaper rash may actually be a sign of a more serious skin condition like eczema or psoriasis.


What is Eczema?

Eczema is a chronic skin condition that impacts a large number of children and adults. Like diaper rash, eczema usually presents as red, itchy-looking skin. Where diaper rash is almost exclusively found on the skin covered by your baby’s diaper, eczema can appear anywhere on the baby’s body. However, it is most often present on the cheeks, elbows, knees, and ankles.


What is Psoriasis?

Like adult psoriasis, psoriasis in childhood is a chronic condition related to an autoimmune disorder that causes skin cells to replicate too quickly. This can lead to thick patches of scaly, itchy, and inflamed skin called plaques. If your child has a rash that doesn’t respond to home treatment or prescriptions from your doctor, it may actually be psoriasis.


Can I Care for these Conditions at Home?

Mild cases of eczema can be treated in the home using thick moisturizing ointments or creams and avoiding irritants in soaps and clothes detergents, which can lead to flare-ups. More serious cases of eczema and psoriasis will call for a trip to see your dermatologist. Prescription medications and ointments may be used, and for psoriasis, treatment of the underlying autoimmune dysfunction may be necessary.

According to Lauren Snitzer, MD at U.S. Dermatology Partners of Sugar Land,

more serious skin conditions are often, “diaper rash mimickers, so if your pediatrician’s recommended treatments aren’t effective, call a skin care specialist.”

Don’t apply diaper paste in small amounts. Apply it like you’re frosting a cupcake!
“For sensitive skin” doesn’t always mean your baby’s skin won’t be irritated. Try switching to different hygiene products and cleansers to improve diaper rash.


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