Nappy rash is upsetting for parents and painful for babies. Mostly, it’s caused by a baby sitting too long in a wet and soiled nappy, but there are two other lesser-known causes:
- Thursh (a yeast infection also known as Candida), and
- Contact dermatitis (caused by exposure to the chemicals inside disposable nappies, baby wipes, baby cleansers, nappy barrier creams and even nappy rash treatment creams).
Today, I’m focusing on the lesser-known causes of nappy rash and some of the gentle, natural ways I have found over the years of preventing and treating it.
Symptoms of nappy rash:
- Inflamed – red, sore and moist skin around the genitals and anus.
- A rash of small raised bumps.
- Blistering – the skin may then peel, leaving raw patches (ulcers).
- Spreading – the rash can spread onto the tummy and buttocks.
- Ulcers – small ulcers may form on healthy skin near the area of the rash.
- Fractious, unhappy baby who can’t settle.
In all cases of painful nappy rash, if you see no improvement within 48 hours then consult your doctor or health visitor.
Causes of nappy rash:
1.) Sitting for too long in a soggy and soiled nappy. Generally, urine on it’s own is sterile. Ammonia, a powerful-smelling chemical that is irritating to skin, is created when bacteria and urine are present – eg when when urine and faeces mix for an extended time. This type of rash is characterised by red inflamed skin that is concentrated in the creases. There can be a rash of red lumps, and the skin can look shiny, sore and moist. With quick and careful management, you can start to heal the rash within a few hours and certainly within a day or two at most.
2.) Your baby may develop allergic dermatitis when chemicals in our everyday baby products aggravate a simple case of nappy rash and turn it into something that will take longer to treat. Allergic nappy rash can last weeks instead of hours or days.
3.) Thrush, also known as candida, is a systemic fungal infection that can crop up very quickly and is more likely to appear if antibiotics have been needed recently for an infection by mum or baby. This rash can look more like a sand paper rash: tiny pimples clumped together over an area, but it can also look like regular nappy rash with areas of red raw skin.
4.) Plastic pants and plastic coated nappies are great for keeping your baby’s clothes clean and dry, but they also prevent air circulating creating the perfect environment for nappy rash to flourish.
Secondary causes of nappy rash:
1.) Teething can cause very mild toxaemia, which is why your baby’s teeth coming in can sometimes accompanied by bouts of fever. It’s a natural process and our babies’ immune systems are up to the task of eliminating these natural waste toxins via the excretory organs. However, this process can make the urine more likely to cause irritation, and as diarrhoea sometimes accompanies teething, this too can be more irritating to the skin.
2.) Feeling under the weather can make our babies more susceptible to skin rashes. Our skin is our largest organ and it functions both as an organ and as an excretory gland. This means that the immune system will use the skin as well as the kidneys to eliminate unwanted waste or toxins from the body in an attempt to restore balance.
Tips for preventing nappy rash:
- When you’re at home, leave your baby’s nappy off for as long as possible.
- Reserve the use of disposable nappies for situations where cloth nappies are not practical. This benefits the planet and your purse, as well as your baby’s bottom.
- Does a nappy laundry service operate in your area? If not, you could get together a group of interested parents and ask your nearest provider to extend their service to your area. Nappies that are laundered professionally are cleaned to hospital standards and rinsed twice. Don’t wash cloth nappies by hand as it’s next to impossible to get them clean and rinsed properly. Tumble drying makes them softer than air drying.
- Whenever possible, wash your babies bottom in a bowl or even in a sink, this may sound wrong to you but if you think about for a moment, it’s the absolute best way of making sure your baby’s bottom is cleaned properly. Do not use cleansers or soap of any kind. Warm water is more than sufficient. Dry your baby’s skin well before applying a barrier product and putting on a nappy.
- Try not to use baby wipes. If it’s unavoidable, use the sensitive unscented variety, organic where possible. Conventional baby wipes are the cause of many a nappy rash. Accumulation toxicity is the build-up of chemicals to levels that cause a delayed allergic dermatitis. Just study the ingredients on the pack and type the product into the skin deep website if you need convincing.
- Use a natural non-scented nappy balm after every change. This is all I ever used on each of my three children. Many natural nappy balms and nappy rash treatment creams contain essential oils, or synthetic fragrances but these are a bad idea in baby products because babies’ skin is so absorbent and the risk of accumulation toxicity can lead to other skin complaints.
My favourite non-scented Nappy Balm is my own Rosehip & Pomegranate Antioxidant Skin Survival Balm. It contains CO2 organic extracts of Rosehip, Raspberry, Pomegranate, Calendula, Chamomile and Rosemary in an organic Shea butter base which provides effective anti-inflammatory herbs and antioxidant vitamins that help protect your baby’s skin and offer a breathable non suffocating barrier against irritation without any hidden chemicals that can accumulate over time.
- Aloe vera gel is well known as a skin soother for burns and sunburn, but it’s also brilliant as a natural anti-fungal for nappy rash caused by thrush. The type of aloe vera gel is important, as many are perfumed and contain chemicals, or have been heated. My favourite aloe vera gel is made by Higher Nature and it’s called Aloe Gold. It’s triple concentrated and I speak from years of experience when I say it is the perfect Aloe vera gel for treating skin conditions.
- Sea salt A solution of just 0.9 sea salt or Himalayan pink salt is remarkably soothing and healing to the skin. This can be added to the bath.
- Apple cider vinegar- Adding a 250 mls of organic apple cider vinegar to a baby’s bath will not sting. It is soothing when diluted in this way and helps to fight candida by correcting the skin’s pH balance.
- Natural (sugar-free) Live Yogurt- Applying a thick layer of live natural yogurt as you would a nappy treatment cream is a known cure for thrushy bottoms.
- Probiotics- Specialist probiotic producer Bio Kult has been formulating probiotics for many years. Sprinkling powder on your baby’s tongue can help resolve thrushy bottoms fast.
- Rolled oats- Dry, sore, cracked and inflamed skin can obtain relief from wrapping a cup of organic rolled outs in some muslin and leaving it to soak in the bath. When my babies were small, they all suffered with sensitive eczema-prone skin. I didn’t bother with the muslin cloth I would just put 2 cups of rolled oats straight in the bath. It has remarkable skin soothing properties.
- Vitamin C Skin Gel- Vitamin C in the form of ascorbic acid is too unstable and acidic to use directly on skin but a safe and gentle derivative of vitamin C known as sodium ascorbyl phosphate has all the benefits of Vitamin C without the problems. It is very soothing and healing especially on areas of sore inflamed skin. Take a look here.
- Calendula- A well-known and well trusted skin soother and healer. 10 drops of Calendula tincture in a bowl of warm water applied to skin several times a day is effective at reducing inflammation.
- Calendula cream and ointment is also excellent but care must be taken to make sure there are no essential oils present and that the Calendula is CO2 extracted and not macerated which may be too weak to be effective and not an alcohol extract which can add to skin irritation.
- Hypericum- This herb has antiseptic and soothing properties similarto calendula. see above.
- Chamomile- A study done by Flavex showed that 1% CO2 extracted Chamomile extract was as effective as a 0.25% corticosteroid cream. I have seen first-hand the healing results of herbs in my practice as a homeopath and formulator of skincare. Chamomile CO2 extract in a Balm in a saviour for sore inflamed skin conditions and when combined with other soothing antiseptic anti-inflammatory herbs the synergistic effects combine to be naturally healing and protecting.
- Chickweed- I first came across this herb in 1994 looking for a cream to help my daughter’s eczema. I have been using it ever since. It takes the heat out of the skin, reducing the redness and inflammation.
I hope this is useful. For more information, check out Natural Wisdom’s website.