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Nappy rash

Around 1 in 4 babies and toddlers in nappies have nappy rash at any one time. It doesn't usually develop in newborns, but all babies can get nappy rash.

Nappy rash can be caused by:

  • your baby's skin being in contact with wee or poo for a long time
  • the nappy rubbing against your baby's skin
  • not cleaning the nappy area or changing the nappy often enough
  • soap, detergent or bubble bath
  • alcohol-based baby wipes
  • some types of medicines, such as antibiotics or laxatives (used to make a baby poo more often)

There may be red patches on your baby's bottom, or the whole area may be red. Their skin may look sore and feel hot to touch, and there may be spots, pimples or blisters.

Most babies with mild nappy rash don't feel sore, but if the rash is severe your baby may feel uncomfortable and be distressed.

Treating nappy rash

If your baby gets nappy rash, you can usually treat their skin yourself.

If the rash isn't upsetting your baby, at each nappy change apply a thin layer of a barrier cream to protect their skin. Ask your health visitor or pharmacist to recommend one.

Follow this advice to help look after your baby's skin.

  • Change wet or dirty nappies as soon as possible.
  • Clean the whole nappy area gently but thoroughly, wiping from front to back. Use water or fragrance-free and alcohol-free baby wipes. Read more about how to clean your baby and change your baby's nappy.
  • Bath your baby daily – but avoid bathing them more than twice a day as that may dry out their skin.
  • Dry your baby gently after washing them – avoid vigorous rubbing.
  • Lie your baby on a towel and leave their nappy off for as long and as often as you can to let fresh air get to their skin.
  • Do not use soap, bubble bath, or lotions.
  • Do not use talcum powder as it contains ingredients that could irritate your baby's skin.
  • Make sure your baby’s nappy fits properly. If it is too tight then it can irritate the skin and if it is too loose, then the nappy will not be able to soak up pee properly.

Nappy rash usually clears up after about 3 days if you follow this advice. You should keep following this advice as this will help prevent nappy rash from coming back.

If the rash is causing your baby discomfort, your health visitor or pharmacist can recommend a nappy rash cream to treat it.

You should apply the cream first and wait a few minutes before you apply the barrier cream.

Other rashes in the nappy area

If the rash doesn't go away or your baby develops a persistent bright red, moist rash with white or red pimples that spreads into the folds of their skin, they may have an infection.

Ask a pharmacist or health visitor for advice. The pharmacist may recommend a cream for you to use.

If the rash is severe, take your baby to the GP who may prescribe cream or medicine. Follow a GP's instructions on whether and when to apply barrier cream as well as the prescribed cream.

It's normal for babies to develop skin rashes, but it's important to know the difference between a minor irritation and a condition that requires attention.

Read more about rashes in babies and children.

Page last reviewed: 17 September 2021
Next review due: 17 September 2024