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Nappy rash is thought to affect up to a third of
nappy-wearing babies at any given time. Your baby’s skin comes into
contact with urine (wee) and faeces (poo) in their nappy and this
can cause it to become sore and irritated and covered in pink
or red spots or blotches.


How serious is it?

Most nappy rashes are mild and can be avoided or
treated with the right skin care routine. Your baby will
usually feel no pain or discomfort. However, some nappy rashes are
more severe and can be caused by an underlying condition or
bacterial infection. A severe rash is painful and distressing for
your baby and may need treatment with medication.


Mild nappy rash

If your child has mild nappy rash, a small part of
their nappy area will be covered in a pink or red rash, usually
made up of small spots or blotches. However, they should feel well
and will only experience a stinging sensation when passing urine or

If your baby has a mild nappy rash, they will not
normally need any medication or specialist treatment. Instead,
there are steps you can take to safely treat the rash at

  • Leave your baby’s nappy off as long as possible
  • Not putting a nappy on your baby will help them to stay dry and
    avoid contact with faeces or urine. It is usually most convenient
    to leave your baby’s nappy off when they are asleep. You can lay
    them on an absorbent towel or somewhere where you can easily manage
    any soiling or wetting
  • Avoid using soaps when cleaning your baby’s skin
  • Only use water to clean your baby’s nappy area in between
    changes. Use a soft material, like cotton wool or a soft towel,
    when drying. Dab the affected area carefully and
    avoid rubbing their skin vigorously
  • Avoid bathing your baby more than twice a day. Experts think
    this may dry out their skin and cause a more severe nappy
  • Apply a barrier cream every time you change their nappy
  • Using a barrier cream or ointment after each nappy change will
    reduce the contact that your baby’s skin has with urine and faeces.
    Zinc cream, zinc oxide ointment and petroleum jelly are all
    suitable barrier creams. Ask your pharmacist for advice about which
    cream is most suitable for your baby
  • Change your baby’s nappy frequently
  • To lower the risk of your baby getting nappy rash, change your
    baby’s nappy as soon as they wet or soil it. If your baby has nappy
    rash, make sure you change their nappy more frequently than you
    normally would
  • Consider changing the type of nappy you are using
  • If you are using disposable nappies, use one that
    is highly absorbent. However, these are often more expensive
    than other nappies. If you cannot use high-absorbency nappies, make
    sure you change the nappy frequently; ideally, as soon as your baby
    wets or soils it

Severe nappy rash

If your baby’s nappy rash is severe, they may have
more advanced and painful symptoms that make them distressed or
uncomfortable. Symptoms may include:

  • Bright red spots
  • Dry, cracked and broken skin
  • Swellings, ulcers and blisters on the skin

The rash will cover a larger part of the nappy
area and may spread down the legs or up to the abdomen (tummy).
Your baby may cry more often than usual and be irritable.

If your baby has severe nappy rash, they usually
need medication to treat the condition. Your GP will first check
that you have been carrying out the skin care routines advised for
a mild nappy rash (see above). Once your GP is satisfied that the
correct skin care routines are being followed, they usually
prescribe some topical medicines to treat the rash. ‘Topical’ means
that the medicine is applied directly to the affected area (in this
case, the nappy area).


Choose care at home if…

  • Your baby has mild nappy rash. Follow the instructions above
    and the rash will usually clear up in a few days.

Choose your pharmacist, health visitor
or GP if…

  • Your baby has symptoms of severe nappy rash
  • Your child develops severely inflamed (swollen and irritated)
    skin or a fever. This may be a sign of infection

Choose 999 A&E if…

  • There are no reasons why you should need to go to A&E for
    problems with nappy rash
  • A&E is for urgent, life-threatening illness and injury


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