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7 home remedies for diaper rash

Jan. 18, 2019

Of all the potential ailments your baby may suffer from, diaper rash is one of the most common. Diaper rash, or diaper dermatitis, is one of the most common skin problems in infants and children, affecting between 7 and 35 percent of infants at some point, according to UpToDate. Diaper rash occurs most commonly in infants between ages 9 and 12 months, but it can occur at any time the child wears a diaper.

What can make diaper rash even more challenging to treat is that it can be caused or worsened by diaper use or other factors, such as a yeast infection, an allergic reaction or a bacterial infection. Frequent bowel movements or diarrhea may also cause diaper rash, as prolonged exposure to stool may irritate a baby’s skin.

That said, it bears noting that cloth diapers can harbor a host of unwanted germs if not washed properly, according to Dr. Sally S. Robinson, a pediatrician and medical professor at the University of Texas.

"If using cloth diapers and washing them yourself, use very hot water and rinse several times to make sure all the detergent is removed," she says. "Boil them for 15 minutes after washing to make sure that all the germs are killed and all the soap is removed."

Here are seven home remedies for diaper rash from diarrhea, yeast infection and other common triggers.

1. Make your own diaper rash cream

Make your own natural diaper cream, such as the protective barrier balm found on the Mommypotamus blog. The balm combines olive oil, shea butter, coconut oil (an antifungal that can tackle yeast diaper rash) and zinc oxide. In between diaper changes, store your homemade diaper rash cream in the refrigerator. Before applying the cream to your baby, warm it up by rubbing it between your hands first.

A similar DIY diaper rash cream recipe on Pharmacy Times calls for 1 cup coconut oil, 1 cup olive oil, 4 tablespoons beeswax pastilles, 8 drops disinfecting lavender essential oil, 6 drops antiseptic lemon essential oil and 4 drops antifungal, antimicrobial tea tree essential oil.

2. Use breast milk

Breastfeeding parents might already know that liquid gold does more than just nourish their little one’s tummy.

“I will sometimes tell parents to use a bit of breast milk on a diaper rash,” shares Dr. Catherine Gritchen, pediatrician at MemorialCare Medical Group in Long Beach, California. “Though there is not clear evidence that this would always be helpful, there is certainly no harm in this practice. Breast milk has many amazing biodynamic properties, as well as natural anti-infective properties and is full of antibodies.”

3. Use apple cider vinegar

Laura of Clean Chef, Messy Mom recommends adding a cup of apple cider vinegar — which has been shown in published research to inhibit the growth of candida, a group of yeasts that can lead to fungal infections — to your baby's bath water to get rid of a yeast-caused diaper rash quickly.

“Not only will the apple cider vinegar kill bacteria that could worsen the rash, it will also kill off yeast that is prone to cause a rash,” she writes.” You can also dilute a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a cup of water and wash your baby’s bottom with it each time you do a diaper change.”

4. Reach for olive oil

Dr. S. Daniel Ganjian, a pediatrician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, recommends parents use a mild cleanser, such as Cetaphil, after their baby’s bowel movements and plain water and cotton balls after wet diapers. But a soothing alternative can be olive oil, which possesses anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.

Ganjian recommends this soothing protocol for irritant dermatitis diaper rash, as well as rash caused by allergic contact dermatitis.   

5. Apply cornstarch

Both Ganjian and Smart Reading for Knowledge recommend using cornstarch to dry your baby's bottom instead of talcum powder. Keep a container of cornstarch near your diaper changing area and apply it after using homemade diaper rash cream. Just be sure to keep cornstarch (or any powder) away from little lungs.

6. Consider coconut oil

“I usually recommend a greasy or emollient-type product,” Gritchen says. “These are hydrating and soothing, in addition to providing a moderate amount of barrier protection.”

One of the most natural products to fit into this category is one you may already have at home: coconut oil. This remedy may be especially helpful for diaper rash caused by yeast, as multiple published studies confirm coconut oil is a powerful antifungal.

Moms agree it can work wonders on a yeasty rash.

“Coconut oil was the only thing that worked for my baby without him screaming in pain,” says Sheila Sherrill, of Lake Wylie, South Carolina. “Cleared it right up!”

7. Try browned flour

Malori Avery, a mom from Peoria, Illinois, swears by this time-honored homemade diaper rash remedy that appears to be backed by anecdotal evidence: “My great-grandma had 17 children and used it on all of them,” Avery says. “My grandma used it on me, and I use it on my kids.”

To make: “Just cook all-purpose flour over medium heat in a pan, stirring with a whisk,” she explains. “Once it's a sandy color, sift out any lumps, and store in a container. We use salt shakers! I just had to make some three days ago, and [my daughter’s] deep red, painful diaper rash is gone.”

That said, exploring home remedies for diaper rash may not be the best way to address more serious cases.

“If the rash is not resolving, I always recommend that parents bring the baby into see the doctor to be evaluated, and make sure there's not an infectious component,” says Gritchen. “Often, a rash that begins as a simple irritant rash can become secondary infected with bacteria or fungus because the broken skin is more vulnerable to infection. Your doctor can then determine if they need a prescription strength treatment, such as prescription-strength steroid, bacterial ointment, an antifungal cream or even oral antibiotics.”

Read next: When should you worry about a fever?

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