Why Diaper Rash Happens

Diaper rash is one of the most common skin conditions that affects babies. But just because it is common doesn’t mean we can’t do anything about it. Whether your baby’s sensitive skin is very prone to diaper rash or you simply face the occasional bout, let’s get into the wide variety of reasons behind this nasty rash.

What is diaper rash?

Diaper rash pops up in the sensitive areas around a baby’s bottom and genital area. It typically appears as a red, blotchy rash and can be itchy, sore, or scaly, depending on the severity of the case and the sensitivity of your baby’s skin. Most of the time, diaper rash clears up on its own with a fresh diaper and regular changing. However, some rashes can become infected and require medical attention if not properly cared for.

What are the causes of diaper rash?

If your baby has or is currently experiencing a case of diaper rash, familiarizing yourself with the potential causes can help you prevent a rash in the future. Here are a few of the key triggers for diaper rash in children.

Unchanged diapers

Diaper rash thrives in a damp environment, which is why a dirty diaper is the most common cause of diaper rash. Prolonged contact with stool and a diaper rubbing against a baby’s skin both contribute to diaper rash as well. If a baby sits in their dirty diaper for too long, you are more than likely to have to soothe diaper rash symptoms. Change your baby’s diaper often, preferably as soon as you notice it is soiled. Younger babies may need up to 12 diaper changes in a day, while older babies may only require around 6. Of course, every baby is different and these numbers will vary. If using reusable cloth diapers, you want to ensure that the replacement diaper is completely clean and dry.

Sensitive skin reactions

Babies have delicate skin, and some baby skin types are more sensitive than others. Sensitive skin can react to certain irritants in soaps, lotions, dyes, diapers, or baby wipes, resulting in a red rash in the diaper area. It’s important to know your baby’s skin type to prevent these reactions. Make sure to use natural unscented products in the diaper area to best prevent irritation.


Urine actually shifts the pH levels in skin, as it is slightly acidic. Lowering the pH of the skin can make it more susceptible to fungal and bacterial growth. If a baby sits in a wet diaper and already has a case of diaper rash, this could potentially cause a serious infection.

Too-tight diapers or clothes

Since diaper rash thrives in a moist environment, a lack of breathability will only worsen diaper rash symptoms. Avoid dressing your baby in rubber pants or tying their diaper too tight. While both of these methods are meant to trap urine leaks, they also trap bacteria and humidity in their diaper. Keep your little one in breathable clothing and ensure their diapers are tied comfortably.

Changes in diet

When you introduce new foods into your baby’s diet, the makeup of their stool may change. These changes can irritate their skin until their body adjusts to the new diet. Whenever you do introduce a new food, make sure to stay on top of diaper changes and carefully monitor the diaper area.

Candida albicans

When a baby or breastfeeding mom takes antibiotics, they kill off bad bacteria — but they kill the good kind, too. Good bacteria prevents a type of yeast, Candida albicans, from growing. If a baby’s rash lasts longer than a few days and persists even with good diaper care, there’s a good chance that the rash is caused by a Candida infection. This yeast infection is characterized by redness, small red dots, and may be a bit raised. If the rash persists despite at-home treatment attempts, see your pediatrician for medical advice.


Diaper rash is a common affliction for babies, but by understanding the triggers, parents can prevent and treat rashes when they pop up. If a rash appears infected or lasts for more than a few days, contact your pediatrician for help.




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