Primary cause of nappy rash
Nappy rash most frequently occurs when someone sits for too long in a soiled nappy (or diaper). Human waste (urine and faeces) can turn into ammonia if left in contact with the skin for too long, causing irritation.
Diarrhoea (loose, watery stools or the frequent need to have a bowel movement) can become problematic for a baby or adult wearing a nappy. Diarrhoea can be acute or chronic, but in most cases, can last up to a few days, clearing up without treatment.
Generally, babies soil their nappies every 2 to 4 hours. This is one of the main reasons why it is important for them to be frequently changed. Human waste is acidic in nature, allowing bacteria and yeast to thrive. When this happens, inflammation and irritation of the skin occurs.
A candida fungus skin infection can also occur whereby a strain of fungus causes an infection on the skin. The skin may host small amounts of this fungus which thrive on the skin and become problematic when it starts to multiply, creating overgrowth. The majority of infections are caused by a species known as Candida albicans. Other types of candida fungus skin infections are athletes foot, oral thrush, nail fungus, vaginal yeast infection and jock itch.
Every person has fungi on their skin. Irritation occurs when the conditions are just right for it to grow (due to dampness and changes to the skin). It doesn’t necessarily only grow due to poor hygiene. Bacterial infections can also occur if there’s a small scratch on the skin or if the skin has already been weakened by a rash, allowing bacteria to grow easily and cause an infection.
Other known types of skin rashes which can be agitated by wearing a nappy include other forms of dermatitis, psoriasis, as well as rashes caused by syphilis, HIV/AIDS and bullous impetigo (a skin condition caused by a bacterial infection).
Other common causes of nappy rash are:
- The nappy constantly rubs against the skin while being worn. Sometimes a nappy that is too tight or doesn’t fit properly can result in chafing of the skin. The nappy should allow air to get to sensitive areas. A baby can sometimes go without wearing a nappy during naps to give their skin a break.
- The nappy area is not cleaned frequently or changed often enough.
- The nappy area is cleaned with soaps, chemicals, detergents or even bubble bath which can cause irritation to sensitive skin.
- The nappy area is cleaned using alcohol-based or perfumed baby wipes. These can cause drying, and thus worsening symptoms of inflammation / infection.
- A baby or adult may suffer a reaction to prescribed antibiotics.