SUNDAY, March 17 (HealthDay News) -- Baby "wipes" and scented skin lotions can lead to diaper rash in infants, but new parents can soothe their baby's irritated skin and prevent a recurrence, says an expert from the Loyola University Health System.

Since loose stools are the leading cause of diaper rash, breast-fed babies may be more susceptible to this common and uncomfortable skin reaction, said Dr. Bridget Boyd, director of the newborn nursery at Loyola University Medical Center and assistant professor of pediatrics at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

Babies who breast-feed produce looser stools more frequently, she explained. However, doctors recommend breast-feeding because of the many benefits it provides babies.

"Diaper rash is caused by the skin's reaction to irritants such as excessive moisture, lotions, wipes, diapers or a child's waste," Boyd added in a Loyola news release. "I recommend that parents put a barrier cream with zinc oxide on a baby's bottom with each diaper change during times of frequent stools. This keeps a barrier between the child's skin and the moisture that causes the irritation."

Parents who notice their child is getting sick should also apply a thick barrier cream often, added Boyd.

Diaper rash can result when a new product, such as a lotion, diaper brand or a new type of wipe, touches the skin, Boyd said.

"If you've tried a new product on the baby's skin and notice a rash, go back to the old product for a few days. Then, try the new product again. If the rash happens again, don't use the new product," she advised.

Diaper rash can also be avoided by not using products that contain alcohol or fragrances since these can irritate skin.

"Even wipes that are marketed for use on sensitive skin can still irritate fragile skin, so if your child has diaper rash try to avoid the use of any wipes," said Boyd. "Instead, try using a small squeeze water bottle with warm water to clean the bottom and pat dry with a soft, clean washcloth."

If diaper rash develops despite these precautions, Boyd recommended some ways parents or caregivers can treat the affected area, including:

  • Exposing the child's skin to air whenever possible. It may even be a good idea to allow the baby to nap on a cloth diaper or burp rag.
  • Changing the baby's diaper frequently to ensure the skin is clean and dry.
  • Giving an oatmeal bath or soak to help soothe the skin and ease the child's discomfort.
  • Relieving discomfort with pain medication for children older than 2 months

If diaper rash persists despite proper treatment, the child could actually have a yeast rash, Boyd said.

"Healthy babies have yeast in their stool, and diapers are a perfect breeding ground since yeast like to live in dark, warm, wet places," she said. "If the rash looks bright red, is in the skin folds and if it doesn't get better after three days of treating it, you might want to have your pediatrician take a look to make sure there isn't anything concerning."

Other warnings signs that diaper rash is actually a more serious condition:

  • The child has an unexplained fever
  • The skin is oozing pus
  • The rash has scabbed over
  • The redness is spreading
  • There is an abscess or boil

If any of these symptoms are present, Boyd said parents or caregivers should contact their child's pediatrician. "Diaper rash isn't an emergency and most likely will go away in a few days, but if you are concerned, your pediatrician can always take a look," she said.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics provides more information on diaper rash.