Empower Holistic Health Newborn & Infant

Natural Treatment for Common Diaper Rashes

Newborn baby asleep on a blanket.
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Written by Jolene Brighten

Almost all diaper-wearing children will have at least one diaper rash during their early years. Their skin is sensitive and susceptible to irritation. Pair this sensitive skin with chemicals, urine, & stool all wrapped up in a warm, moist environment and you will inevitably have a rash. Diaper rash is a common condition and generally can be easily treated at home. However, trust your mom instincts: if a rash has you concerned, make an appointment with your doctor.

BASIC DIAPER RASH PREVENTION

1. Change diapers frequently.

2. Avoid chemical exposure.

3. Take probiotics if using antibiotics. Probiotics can help decrease the incidence of diarrhea associated with antibiotic use.

4. Apply a topical barrier at first signs of a rash.

5. Keep your child’s diet low in sugar. If you are breastfeeding, be sure to eat quality fat and protein with every meal.

AVOID CHEMICALS

Laundry detergent, dryer sheets, commercial wipes and diapers can all be sources of irritation. If a rash develops after changing lotions, bath wash or any other products that come into contact with the skin, remove those products. If the symptoms resolve within a day or two, the product was likely causing the issues. Manufacturers change their products, so even if you’ve changed nothing, the manufacturer may have. If you use a diaper service, check that the laundry service hasn’t changed their formula.

CONSIDER FOOD SENSITIVITIES

If your little one has recently begun eating solids and the rash is limited to the anus (look for a red ring), you may want to remove the suspected food and try it again in a few weeks. Additionally, if your child begins to develop cradle cap or eczema, it is worth looking into possible food sensitivities or allergies.

 

IRRITANT DERMATITIS

Irritant dermatitis (commonly referred to as diaper rash) is the most common form of diaper-associated rash seen in infants. The most common cause is due to prolonged contact between the skin and a moist diaper. This prolonged contact leads to a breakdown in the skin, which results in redness, irritation and sometimes sores. Early treatment is necessary to prevent other infections, such as yeast or bacteria from occurring. A child that has irritant dermatitis for more than three days is at greater risk for infection.

How to Identify:

• Location: Buttocks, genitals, lower abdomen and thighs. It is found on the parts of the skin that are in direct contact with the diaper (ie: not the folds).

• Appearance: Red skin that may exhibit flaking and even areas of erosion.

Natural Approach to Healing:

1. Discontinue or limit diaper use. Allow the area to dry.

2. Frequent diaper changes. Stool and urine raise the pH in the diaper and cause enzymes to be activated which damage the skin. If you are using cloth diapers, you may want to consider temporarily using disposable for when you are out of the house if the rash is persisting for more than two days.

3. Apply a topical barrier between diaper changes. Look for products with natural oils, beeswax, and skin-healing herbs, like calendula and comfrey. Avoid products that contain preservatives, fragrance and neomycin. Boric acid and camphor can have a toxic effect in infants and therefore, should be avoided. Products that contain zinc oxide can be very beneficial in helping the skin heal.

4. Breastfed infants tend to have a lower stool pH, which decreases their risk of developing irritant dermatitis.

5. Clean the area with warm water and a soft cloth only. Over cleansing with wipes or solutions can cause increased irritation. If the skin is broken, discontinue all wipes and use only warm water to cleanse.

 

AMMONIA BURN

This is a type of rash that is pretty much exclusive to cloth diaper use. Do your infant’s diapers ever have a strong odor? Are they experiencing repeat diaper rash? That may very well be due to an ammonia burn. Ammonia is produced from uric acid crystals. Uric acid crystals are produced when your infant’s urine dries in the diaper. These won’t necessarily come out in the laundry and when your infant urinates again, these crystals are activated and ammonia is allowed to come into contact with the skin.

How to Identify:

Ammonia burns generally begins with redness and a few bumps where the skin comes into contact with the diaper. The bumps may blister and open, creating sores. If this occurs, it is important to schedule an appointment with your doctor to rule out or prevent infection. Impetigo, which oozes a honey colored crust, can look very similar to this and can become a serious bacterial infection if left untreated.

Preventing Ammonia Burns:

1. Soak all cloth diapers before laundering.

2. Strip diapers if rash has occurred– run them through 2-3 wash cycles on the hottest setting.

3. Use only as much detergent as is necessary.

4. Run an extra rinse cycle to be sure all chemicals, uric acid and bacteria are removed.

5. Line dry when you can. A dose of good ol’ sunshine and fresh air can help decrease potential irritants.

6. Wash the pail you keep your diapers in often.

 

CANDIDAL (YEAST) DERMATITIS

If diaper rash persists for 3 or more days, infection by candida (yeast) may occur. The breakdown of the skin barrier leaves the tissue susceptible and the elevated pH fosters the growth of yeast.

How to Identify:

1. Location: Most commonly in the skin folds.

2. Beefy red appearance is classic for yeast.

3. There is often one large or several large areas of redness along with what are called satellite lesions, smaller areas of redness that surround the larger area.

Natural Approach to Healing:

1. Limit sugar and refined grains in the diet.

2. Use an ointment with tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia) between diaper changes.

3. Persistence of repeat yeast infections may be a sign of immune deficiency, gut dysbiosis or type 1 diabetes. It is best to follow up with a health care professional if your child is experiencing multiple or persistent yeast infections.

 

SEBORRHEIC DERMATITIS

How to Identify:

1. Location: It will generally show up as a single patch with distinct borders.

2. It may be red, raised, thick and greasy or dry in appearance.

3. You may notice that your child also has cradle cap or a rash on their face.

Natural Approach to Healing:

1. Essential fatty acids given as either fish oil or consumed by breastfeeding mother.

2. Consider an elimination diet to determine if food is causing a reaction (mom’s diet if breastfeeding).

 

HOMEOPATHIC TREATMENT OF DIAPER RASH

Homeopathic remedies can make a great addition to the above treatment. A 6C dose is relatively safe to use in children. There are 3 common remedies to consider for diaper rash.

1. Sulphur for rashes that are very red and inflamed. You may feel that the rash happens easily or often. Sulphur is a good remedy to start with as it is very common with diaper rash.

2. Calcarea carbonica for bright red rashes due to yeast (see description above).

3. Medorrhinum for rashes that may be red, blistered, cracked and/or bleeding in the genital area. Eczema may have been a problem since birth and alternates with asthma.

I often recommend the book The Complete Homeopathy Handbook by Miranda Castor to my patients when they are interested in exploring homeopathy for their children. It is easy to use and can prove very effective for common ailments.

About the author

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Jolene Brighten