Nappy Rash Prevention and Treatment for Children

Nappy rash doesn’t only affect babies, and can occur in older children and people of all ages who wear incontinence aids. In this article, we discuss how to treat and prevent nappy rash.

Nappy Rash Prevention and Treatment for Children

Nappy rash doesn’t only affect babies, and can occur in older children and people of all ages who wear incontinence aids. In this article, we discuss how to treat and prevent nappy rash.

Nappy rash is something you might associate with only babies, but can occur in children, and adults, of any age if they use nappies or other incontinence aids.

It can be an uncomfortable and sometimes painful condition, but thankfully, it’s generally harmless and can clear within a few days of treatment. For more severe cases, though, it can indicate an underlying skin infection or skin condition, so it’s important to treat the condition as soon as possible to avoid it worsening. 

If your child or teenager is experiencing nappy rash, or they have in the past and you’re looking for ways to help prevent it from recurring, keep reading.

What is Nappy Rash?

Nappy rash, also called diaper rash or diaper dermatitis, is a condition where the skin around the genital area, bottom and/or thighs forms a pink/red rash that is itchy and sore.

A mild case of nappy rash usually resolves within a few days of treatment, however, more severe cases that don’t resolve after starting treatment could be a sign of an underlying condition.

If your child is experiencing any of the following symptoms, it’s important to take them to a doctor or paediatrician, as it can indicate severe nappy rash [1]:

  • Your child is in a lot of pain/discomfort from the rash

  • Red, raw, inflamed, broken and/or bleeding skin

  • Blistered, weeping, peeling or ulcerated skin

  • Pimples, sores, boils or other red bumps on the skin

  • The rash has spread outside of the area contained in the nappy (eg, onto the stomach)

What Causes Nappy Rash?

There are a lot of different things that can cause nappy or diaper rash, with the most common being:

Wetness, Heat & Friction:

Disposable diapers are designed to absorb and contain liquid, however, they can also trap body heat depending on the materials they’re made of. The combination of wetness, heat and friction from the nappy rubbing against the skin can lead to chafing, resulting in irritated, red skin with a rash.

Skin Irritants & Allergens:

As you probably already know, urine and faeces contain enzymes and chemicals (like ammonia) that can irritate the skin. Wearing a used or soiled nappy/incontinence aid for a prolonged period can degrade and irritate the skin, resulting in skin irritation.

Similarly, products you choose to use could potentially be irritating your child’s sensitive skin. Soaps, detergents, antiseptics or products with added fragrance can cause skin irritation, allergic reactions or even irritant contact dermatitis. If your child’s skin is already irritated by the use of a particular product, it can be worsened by an incontinence aid.

Yeast Infection:

Yeast infections are caused by the overgrowth of a microorganism called Candida albicans. It often infects skin that has been broken down and softened due to contact with moisture, which unfortunately means that a diaper/incontinence aid can create ideal conditions for candida infection.

Underlying Skin Conditions:

If your child has a skin condition like eczema, psoriasis or even seborrheic dermatitis, they might be more prone to developing diaper rash due to having more sensitive skin. One study also found that 7% of participants with eczema had skin irritation and rashes regardless of using a nappy or incontinence aid [3].

Diaper rash can also be caused by more severe bacterial skin infections or herpes simplex virus (HSV), but it is relatively uncommon. Certain diseases can lead to rashes in the nappy area, too - but before you start to worry, these conditions are quite rare and usually come with other symptoms like fever, swollen glands and/or abdominal pain.

If your child has severe diaper rash, the rash doesn’t seem to be responding to treatment or they develop other symptoms of illness, it’s essential to take them to see their GP or treating medical professional for a correct diagnosis and to rule out any other potential causes.

How is Nappy Rash Treated?

Generally, a mild case of nappy rash can be treated by the use of a barrier cream that contains zinc oxide - which has been found to have antioxidant and antibacterial properties.

Zinc oxide has also been found to have anti-inflammatory, anti-irritant, moisturising properties, and assist with wound healing [4]! Consider it your new best friend when it comes to protecting your child’s skin from any incontinence-related skin irritation.

There are a lot of different barrier creams with zinc oxide available over the counter at pharmacies for the treatment of nappy rash, so you don’t need a prescription from your child’s GP to access one.

If the rash on your child doesn’t seem to be responding to an over-the-counter barrier cream, you should take them to their GP or treating medical professional to see if there are any underlying conditions. Depending on what is causing the rash, they might prescribe:

  • A topical corticosteroid, like hydrocortisone ointment, to reduce any inflammation or irritation

  • An antifungal if there is a candida infection

  • Antibiotics if there is a bacterial infection

How to Prevent Nappy Rash

Thankfully, there are a variety of easy ways to prevent and manage any rashes to ensure your child’s skin is in optimal condition when using incontinence aids, whether that be during the day or night [1]:

Use high-quality, high-absorbency incontinence aids

While nappies and absorbent pull-up pants might seem like they’re all the same, there can be a lot of differences in the quality and absorbency of different products.

Our Magics Youth Pants are super absorbent, fitted with patented Magical Tube absorbency technology that equally distributes liquid for rapid absorption to keep skin dry even after wetting. They’re also made from fully breathable materials, free of latex and are dermatologically tested, so you can rest easy knowing that your child has a reduced risk of irritation.

Magics Youth Pants are size-inclusive, designed to fit older children and teens from the ages of four to 15 - so you don’t need to stress about them growing out of the limited sizing of supermarket nappies.

Change their nappy as soon as it's wet or soiled

As we mentioned earlier, nappy rash can be caused by different skin-irritating compounds contained in urine or faeces.

To help prevent the recurrence of nappy rash, make sure to change your child’s nappy or pull-up as soon as it’s used or soiled. If your child can change themselves, be sure to let them know the importance of changing out of their used nappy or pull-up as soon as possible.

Keep skin clean & dry

Of course, keeping skin clean is a must for any incontinence skin care regime. Make sure you or your child cleans their skin adequately every bath or shower with fragrance-free wash for sensitive skin.

It’s also a great idea to keep hypoallergenic wet wipes handy in your incontinence kit when you’re out of the house for quick changes on the go. Make sure to dry the area with a soft, gentle towel, cloth or wipe before putting on another pull-up or nappy, too!

Use a moisturiser or barrier cream at every change

While barrier creams are a treatment for nappy rash, they’re also a great preventative!

Keeping the skin moist and protected by a layer of hydrating ointment helps not only to keep your child’s skin hydrated but to form a ‘barrier’ between the skin and the incontinence aid as well as any bacteria or microorganisms that can invade any dry, broken or cracked skin.

Use fragrance-free products designed for sensitive skin

As we mentioned earlier, a lot of soaps, detergents, moisturisers or products with added fragrance can irritate the skin, especially the sensitive skin in the genital and perianal region. Be sure to swap out any fragranced soaps, moisturisers and even things like bath bubbles with fragrance-free options that are designed for sensitive skin.

Use any prescribed medications for the recommended period

If your child has received any prescriptions from their doctor or other treating health professional to clear up their nappy rash, be sure to continue using it for the recommended duration. This is especially important if your child’s nappy rash also has a viral, bacterial or fungal (candida) infection, as stopping treatment early may cause these pathogens to return.

Focus on your child being comfortable

Some children may not have perfectly ‘normal’ or clear skin in the area for as long as they use a nappy or pull-up, and while this may not give the perfect appearance of the skin, it doesn’t always cause discomfort. Aim for your child to be comfortable and free of discomfort, and be sure to take them to a doctor if this changes or you notice any changes in their skin integrity.

While nappy rash can be an uncomfortable and sometimes painful experience for those who use incontinence aids, we hope that this article helps to keep your child’s skin healthy and rash-free!

As this is general advice only, be sure to take your child to their GP or treating medical professional if you are concerned about any skin issue you may notice to receive tailored advice to your unique situation.

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