Chafing, sensitivity, and wetness are common causes of a typical diaper rash, but if usual treatment efforts (like keeping your child's bottom dry and using a diaper rash cream or ointment) don't seem to be working, your baby may have a yeast diaper rash.
What causes a yeast diaper rash?
A type of yeast called candida most commonly causes a yeast diaper rash. Everyone has harmless amounts of candida in and on their body. This fungus thrives in warm, moist areas, like the mouth, bowels, skin, vagina, and groin area. The moist environment of a dirty diaper can easily cause a yeast infection – especially if there's already an untreated diaper rash.
Babies taking antibiotics and breastfed babies whose mothers are on antibiotics are also more susceptible to yeast infections. That's because antibiotics kill the good bacteria in the body that keep yeast in check. Without these bacteria around, yeast can grow more abundantly.
If your child recently had thrush (a yeast infection of the mouth), he may end up with a yeast infection in his diaper area, too. Yeast passes through your child's digestive system when he eats and ends up in his stool, which eventually lands in his diaper right next to his warm, damp skin.
What are the symptoms of a yeast diaper rash?
You may not be able to detect yeast in a mild diaper rash, but you can usually identify a full-blown yeast infection if the rash:
- Lasts longer than two days and doesn't respond to typical treatments for diaper rash
- Is well defined and bright red
- Has slightly raised borders
- Shows up in the folds of skin in the groin area
- Has "satellite" lesions or additional irritation near the main skin rash
- Is scaly
© Dr. P. Marazzi / Science Source
Do I need to take my baby to the doctor for a yeast diaper rash?
There's no need to rush your child to the doctor if you think your baby's rash may be a yeast infection, but do check in with your provider for treatment suggestions, and let her know if the rash doesn't improve within three days of starting treatment. It's possible your doctor may want to examine your child in that case.
Also make an appointment to see the doctor if your child develops a fever, or if the rash develops open sores or oozing yellow patches. These could mean your child has a bacterial infection and needs an antibiotic.
What's the treatment for yeast diaper rash?
Regular diaper barrier creams or ointments won't help, so your baby's doctor may recommend using a topical antifungal cream (such as nystatin, clotrimazole, or miconazole), possibly with a mild corticosteroid cream as well.
Most creams are available without a prescription at the drugstore. Follow the directions on the product's label.
Applying the cream two to three times a day is usually enough, but when you're using an antifungal cream, it's important to rub it into the skin, not just apply it on top (the way you would with a regular barrier cream for diaper rash). The rash should clear up after a few days.
Sometimes doctors also recommend applying a barrier cream or ointment over the medication to keep the rash from getting worse.
Don't use powders like talcum or cornstarch, which can get into a baby's lungs if inhaled. (Also, some experts believe that using cornstarch might make diaper rash worse by spreading yeast and bacteria.)
Are there any good home remedies for a yeast diaper rash?
There isn't much research on the safety or effectiveness of home remedies for a yeast diaper rash. Always consult with your pediatrician before trying any alternative options.
What's the best way to keep my baby's bottom clean so it heals?
- Change your baby's diaper frequently.
- Give your child some bare-butt time. Let her play diaperless on a waterproof sheet or a plastic tablecloth with a towel on top of it to let her bottom get some air.
- Gently clean the affected area with a soft washcloth or a cotton ball and water. Don't use wipes, and be careful not to rub too hard.
- Use a squirt bottle filled with water to clean the area if it looks very irritated or sensitive.
- Choose a mild, fragrance-free soap.
- Pat the area dry or let it air-dry, then apply the ointment or cream.
Can a yeast diaper rash be prevented?
That depends. If your child is taking an antibiotic (or if you're breastfeeding and taking antibiotics), or if your child has recently recovered from a bout of thrush, you may not be able to prevent a yeast infection.
But you can take steps to prevent the kind of environment where yeast thrives – a dark, moist place.
Try these diapering tips, which also can help prevent regular diaper rash:
- Check your baby's diaper often, and change wet and soiled diapers right away.
- Clean your child's bottom thoroughly after he has a bowel movement, and give the area a chance to dry completely before putting on another diaper.
- Don't put diapers on so tightly that air can't circulate around your child's skin.
- If your child is prone to diaper rashes, give him extra bare-butt time whenever it's convenient, such as during weekend diaper changes at home.
Do cloth diapers help prevent a yeast diaper rash?
There is no evidence that one type of diaper is better at preventing diaper rash than another. Whether you use cloth or disposable, what's most important is changing dirty diapers as soon as possible. It's also a good idea to avoid using tight-fitting disposable diapers or plastic pants over cloth diapers because these prevent air from passing through.
If you use cloth diapers:
- Wash them with a mild detergent and bleach.
- Rinse them thoroughly.
- Don't use fabric softeners or dryer sheets. (These might irritate the rash and make it worse.)
If your baby already has a yeast diaper rash, consider using disposable diapers temporarily until the rash goes away because they're highly absorbent and designed to keep moisture away from the skin.