In this installment of the cloth diapers and prevent diaper rashes series, I have some recommendations for methods to treat and cure it as well as some products you may want to consider purchasing.
Treating Diaper Rash
So you’ve tried all those preventative things and still baby has a rash. Don’t feel too badly- it happens. Even with diligent care, some things like changes in diet (especially addition of acidic things like citrus or tomatoes), teething, or tummy bugs can cause diarrhea that in turn produce a rash on tender skin. Another culprit can be infections. Curing the rash depends largely on determining what irritation has caused it. This can be a process of elimination.
If you’ve determined that your baby just has sensitive skin, you may have to work a little harder to keep those delicate tissues dry. Some people find it helpful to dust baby’s bottom with corn starch just before snapping/pinning/Velcroing the fresh diaper on. It may help keep the skin surface a little drier. Some people think it actually repels moisture, forcing it to roll off. There is a bit of a debate about using cornstarch or talcum powder, though. Some people believe it increases the likelihood of yeast infections. Also, some believe it poses an inhalation risk.
There are lots of OTC store-bought remedies and people who firmly believe in them (some common kinds are Triple Paste and A&D Ointment). You can try to stock pile some of those. Be forewarned though that most will stain diapers, especially the zinc oxide and oily ones. My personal favorite is pure lanolin. It is marketed for breastfeeding mothers to protect and restore the skin around the nipples when it gets irritated. It is safe for baby to ingest so it is certainly safe to apply to his skin.
A nice homeopathic remedy is a calendula cream. You may want to get some of this for other skin abrasions and like injuries because it gets high praise. You could even grow calendula flowers and produce your own. A German remedy that gets rave reviews is Peneten. I’ve never used it, but it contains both zinc oxide and lanolin, so that probably accounts for its effectiveness.
Another remedy some find helpful is to break open a Vitamin E capsule and spread the oil on the affected skin. The anti-oxidants may help speed the healing of the tissues. Some find using pure coconut oil to be helpful. Apply as you would other ointments.
One thing I find that makes it hard to heal a diaper rash is repeated bowel movements. If a child has lots of messy diapers that requires frequent wiping, the friction of cleaning that delicate skin can cause great discomfort to the baby and prevent the tissues from being able to heal. In these cases, I often let the baby soak in a lukewarm bath with a bit of baby wash to allow all the irritants to dissolve off, then drain and rinse gently with a cup of water or hand sprayer. Some people use oatmeal or baking soda in the water.
Of course, allow the skin to dry completely. This is a time when lanolin seems to work well. It almost creates a waterproof seal over the rash so that the next urine or feces does not sting so much and is easier to remove.
And here is a “cure” you probably have never heard of for rash caused by diarrhea- Kaopectate. I know it is not intended for ingestion in children this young, but I didn’t say they should drink it. My sister-in-law (a nurse) taught me this trick while she worked for a pediatrician. Put it on a cotton ball and dab it on the rash. Somehow, it seems that whatever component neutralizes upset stomachs also neutralizes the sting of the compounds in diarrhea. We’ve used it many times with success.
A word of caution- be sure not to “double-dip” your cotton ball into the bottle! Close the cap after you soak the cotton ball to remind yourself to get a fresh one if you need more Kaopectate. Generic works fine also.
If the rash is not cleared up by other methods, baby may have a yeast infection. These rashes are often made of little red dots. Yeasts are found in the air and can come from the intestines. The infections sometimes result from time on antibiotics. Yeasts thrive in warm moist environments. Most common ointments or remedies will not get rid of the yeast. For this reason (among others), I suggest including an OTC anti-fungal in your medical preps. You may need to apply a Lotrimin type product in the place of other ointments. Some people apply plain yogurt to the spots instead.
Another possibility is a Staph infection. Staph germs, like many others, are present on our skin’s surface most of the time. If the skin gets abraded or otherwise gives entry to the germs, an infection can begin. This has happened to one of our babies. Mupirocin is a great prescription treatment. Assuming you don’t have access to that, stock some StaphAseptic in your medical preps.
So, here you have more than you ever wanted to know about diaper rash. If I’ve left anything out, please mention it in the comments section.