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What is the Connection Between Diarrhea and Diaper Rash?

By Sarah Sullins
Updated May 17, 2024
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Diarrhea and diaper rash go hand in hand for many babies. This is because the loose bowel movements irritate the baby's sensitive skin, sometimes causing a red rash on the baby's buttocks or directly around the baby's anus. These rashes are not generally serious and will go away as soon as the diarrhea has stopped. Certain ointments and treatments may help to relieve some of the pain and irritation of the diaper rash while the baby is experiencing diarrhea.

Babies get diarrhea and diaper rash for a number of reasons, including the introduction of new foods, infection, illness, and medicine. Many pediatricians recommend that a child who has been experiencing loose or frequent bowel movements have his diaper changed often, at least every two hours. When the child has an episode of diarrhea, he will need to have his diaper changed as quickly as possible. Quick removal of the irritant can prevent a diaper rash from occurring or keep it from getting worse.

When a baby has diarrhea and diaper rash, it may be helpful for a parent to gently wash the baby's bottom with warm water instead of using wipes. Baby wipes sometimes have ingredients in them that may irritate the skin and make the rash worse. It also might be helpful, if a bit messy, to let the baby go without a diaper for a while. The lack of covering allows the baby's bottom skin time to dry out instead of stewing in the excess moisture trapped by the diaper. It also aids in healing by keeping the diaper from rubbing on the rash.

Using certain ointments on a diaper rash can help it heal and also relieve the pain and irritation that comes with the rash. Creams that are specifically made for diaper rashes can be helpful. Two types of creams, petroleum ointment and white zinc oxide, are most common for use on babies' sensitive skin. Diarrhea and diaper rash that are particularly bad may require a stronger cream prescribed by a doctor.

Diarrhea can quickly cause dehydration in children, so many doctors recommend that parents give their children plenty of clear liquids while they are experiencing loose bowel movements to keep them hydrated. Rashes that occur with diarrhea usually disappear after the diarrhea has stopped, but sometimes the rash persists. If this happens, the parent should make an appointment to see the child's pediatrician. Lingering diarrhea also may need to be treated by a physician.

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Discussion Comments
By candyquilt — On Mar 12, 2013

@ddljohn-- Did you speak with her pediatrician?

You need to have her diarrhea treated first. She might need anti-diarrhea medication and make sure she's hydrated.

Stop using wipes from the store and wipe her only with baking soda and water with a soft cloth. Then apply all natural lanolin and repeat as necessary.

It's also better to use cloth diapers during this time as they are softer, more absorbent and gentle for the baby's skin.

By ddljohn — On Mar 11, 2013

My daughter has diaper rash for the first time ever! She's on antibiotics for an ear infection which gave her diarrhea. She won't stop crying, I don't know what to do.

By SteamLouis — On Mar 11, 2013

Diarrhea in infants is a nightmare, especially if the infant already has very sensitive skin. This was the case with both of my kids. I always had to be careful so that they wouldn't get a diaper rash but when we were trying to treat their diarrhea, it was even more difficult.

It's not just loose stools causing irritation to the skin, but the diapers as well. Constantly changing diapers makes rashes even worse.

There were times when my babies wouldn't even let me touch their bottom or wipe them because their rash hurt so much. All these anti-rash products are great but they only work to some degree. The only thing that worked was lard. I would cover the rash in lard and then sprinkle cornstarch around the buttocks.

Cornstarch absorbs extra moisture before it can irritate skin and lard acts as a protective layer. I learned these tips from my mother-in-law back then.

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