Get To The Bottom Of Winter Diaper Rash
For the parents of the millions of diaper-clad babies, the winter months can mean cute little red outfits, cute little red button noses, and not-so-cute and oh-so-painful little red bottoms. Most don't think about their baby's skin health until sunscreen season comes around again.
But they should. Anecdotal evidence indicates that when the temperature plunges, the prevalence and severity of diaper rash increases. Primary care pediatricians see a jump in the number of parents bringing in babies with sore bottoms, and sales of over-the-counter diaper rash treatments peak when it's coldest -- from October through March.
"Diaper rash is the most common skin condition affecting babies and young children, and if it's not treated quickly and effectively, both the baby ... and the parents ... suffer," said Lawrence Eichenfield, MD, a leading pediatric dermatologist and chief of Pediatric and Adolescent Dermatology at Rady Children's Hospital and Health Center in San Diego, and Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine (Dermatology) at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine. "In the winter, diaper rash can be more problematic. Parents are simply not aware that the risk increases as the temperature decreases."
Caused by a combination of trapped moisture, irritants and the friction of a diaper against tender skin, diaper rash can be more problematic in the winter because parents tend to bundle up their babies to keep them warm - and unwittingly create the perfect warm, moist environment for diaper rash.
And, babies become sick more often in the winter because they spend more time indoors, exposed to viruses, colds and other pathogens. "When a baby is sick and has diarrhea, a miserable case of diaper rash can certainly follow, because diarrhea irritates an already sensitive diaper area," said Dr. Eichenfield. "And, medications often prescribed for children during the winter months -- like antibiotics to treat infections -can cause diarrhea and contribute to diaper rashes. Diaper rash is a common side effect of antibiotic treatment," he added.
Since the winter season is upon us, it's important for parents to be aware of the heightened risk of diaper rash, and to take steps now to take charge of their baby's skin health.
The Rash-O-Meter Diaper Rash Severity Index Predicts Moderate to Severe Risk
Summers Labs established the Rash-O-Meter Diaper Rash Severity Index to educate and inform parents about the increased risk of diaper rash during the winter, and to provide tips on prevention and treatment. The Index is based on relative risk during the winter, with a baseline of "mild" during the three previous seasons.
The 192nd edition of the Farmer's Almanac predicts the winter of 2008-2009 will bring above-average snowfall and lower than normal temperatures. "Based on clinical observation as well as sales of non-prescription diaper rash treatments -- we see that year after year, diaper rash is more problematic in the cold weather months," stated Dr. Eichenfield.
"We expect this season to be moderate to severe in terms of diaper rash risk. Fortunately, there are ways to minimize the risk and to treat uncomplicated diaper rash safely and effectively," he added.
Prevention and Treatment of Diaper Rash
Following are tips to prevent and treat diaper rash:
1. Do not overdress your baby - layer just enough to stay warm.
2. Avoid restrictive clothing and plastic pants ... at all times.
3. Change diapers frequently, keep diaper area clean and dry (a coating of cornstarch works well).
4. Give baby's bottom some "air time" without a diaper to reduce diaper-to-skin friction and promote healing.
5. Apply a thin coating of a medicated, non-prescription ointment containing zinc oxide -- like Triple Paste Medicated Ointment -- at diaper changes, after bath and before bed to provide protection from irritation and promote healing.
6. Treat mild diaper rash early, before it becomes a bigger problem.
7. If your doctor prescribes antibiotics for your child, make sure you have a premium over-the-counter diaper rash ointment like Triple Paste handy. Start using it at the first sign of irritation, or as soon as you administer the first dose.
8. Keep the ointment in multiple locations -- a tube in the nursery, a tube in the diaper bag, a tube at daycare.
9. If diaper rash does not clear up in a few days, or worsens dramatically, contact your pediatrician.