Everything Incontinence

Adult Diaper Rash: Prevention and Treatment

Adult diaper rash is much more prevalent than many people may think, and is an important thing to check for as you are caring for a loved one. Diaper rash is something that we commonly associate with babies and toddlers — but it can happen to anyone.

Diaper rash is prevalent among those who are using pads, adult diapers, or padded briefs. These are items that are commonly used for incontinence, those who may have trouble getting to a bathroom in time, or those who may simply forget, as in the case of Alzheimer’s or other similar conditions.

What is Diaper Rash

Diaper rash is caused from moisture that has been trapped near the skin. This moisture mixed with the heat of your body becomes a breeding ground for bacteria, which causes diaper rash. You may notice a red patchy area beginning to form — initially this may looked like chapped skin. Over the course of a few hours you will notice tiny bumps beginning to form in the initial red areas. Eventually the bumps become larger and the rash begins to look more defined. At times it may even bleed from being bumped or rubbed against. This can develop anywhere near the hips, thighs, bottom, or groin of the person you are caring for. Diaper rash can be quite painful, and it can be irritated at even the slightest movement. There are several home remedies you can use that will work quickly, and if they don’t work, there are over the counter treatments that can be used.

Causes of Diaper Rash

So what causes a diaper rash? Diaper rash can be caused by many different things, and some of them may surprise you. The most common causes are:

  • Chafing or rubbing of clothing, diapers, or pads used for incontinence
  • Reactions to detergents, dyes, or perfumes that may be used in incontinence care
  • Trapped heat and moisture near the skin
  • Ammonia in urine being held close to the skin via pads and diapers, or unclean clothing
  • Yeast infections
  • Bacteria infections
  • Psoriasis or eczema
  • Poor genital hygiene
You do not have to be wearing a diaper to experience any of these symptoms. Diaper rashes are a painful experience that aren’t limited to diapers or pads or anything of the sort. Sometimes it happens simply because clothing is too tight, or there is not proper air circulation.

Symptoms of Diaper Rash

There are multiple symptoms of diaper rash, and it is important to pay attention and catch it early on rather than later, as it only gets more painful as it is left unattended. Early symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • Dry, itchy skin that may burned when scratched
  • Pink, red, or discolored skin
  • Small bumps on the skin that aren’t connected by an underlying rash. These bumps may be any shade of pink or red.

As the rash progresses, so do the symptoms. You will notice larger areas of red, pink, or otherwise discolored skin. The bumps will grow in size, and may become filed with pus-like fluid. The skin will continue to become sore and tender, and the itchiness will increase. There may be a burning sensation when touched, and you will notice an increased sensitivity as you go about caring for them. There may even be an intense burning sensation upon moving around, sitting, standing, walking, or putting on clothing — basically anything that will cause friction in the area the rash has formed. In rare cases, a rash will become severe and may need a doctors interference. If the person you are caring for develops a fever, blisters that ooze pus, severe aches and pains in the body, or is experiencing intense exhaustion, it is time for medical interference as the rash may have become infected.

Treatment of Diaper Rash

There are multiple ways to treat diaper rash. Depending on the severity and the painfulness of it, the rash is easily treated at home, using things you may just have in your cabinet. The number one way to treat diaper rash is to keep the area as clean as possible. At the first sign of moisture, the clothing, diaper, or pad must be changed immediately. When changing and cleaning up the person you are caring for, use nothing with alcohol in it. Using pre-moistened wipes are convenient, but the fragrance, added dyes, and alcohol content in them will sting and burn any areas where the rash is. The best way to clean the soiled area is to use warm water, a clean cloth, and a mild, hypoallergenic, fragrance free soap. Carefully pat the area dry with a clean towel.

When it comes to using something on the rash, you have two options: powders or creams. Some people prefer one over the other, and often people tend to find creams, ointments, and lotions to be too sticky for their comfort. These should not be used together, or you will create an ineffective paste-like substance on the skin that is difficult to clean off.

Products using petroleum jelly are excellent choices to give relief to irritated skin. The creams, ointments, and lotions containing this product will add moisture to the rash, relieving the itch and cooling the burning sensation, while at the same time providing a protective barrier between the broken skin and any bacteria that may be present. Simply rub it gently on the clean, dry rash and leave it to help ease the pain. If you’d like a more natural option, coconut oil, shea butter, aloe vera, or lanolin are all alternative choices that will help in healing.

There are powders you can use if you or the person you are treating prefer them to the creams. Regular baby powder, found in the baby department, will work wonders. Using cornstarch, found in most kitchen cabinets, will cure a mild rash in less than twenty four hours. Grinding up regular oats into a fine powder will also ease a rash.

If a rash is severe, persists more than three days, or is accompanied by a fever, you should absolutely seek the help of a health care professional. The rash could be a sign of a bacterial or a fungal infection, both of which require prescription creams to get over. Most creams prescribed for both of these ailments will need to be applied two or three times a day, every day, for seven to ten days.

How to Prevent Diaper Rash

The best way to prevent a diaper rash, as already discussed, is to remove the moisture away from the skin as quickly as possible. This means changing soiled diapers, pads, or underwear as soon as possible. Don’t wait for a more convenient time — the best time is right when it first happens. Practice good hygiene and clean the diaper area with a mild soap and warm water daily, making sure the entire area is dry before replacing the diaper. Another way to prevent diaper rash is to always apply a moisturizer or a powder to the diaper area before replacing it. If possible, try to go a couple hours each day or longer without wearing a diaper or pad, just to give your skin a bit of a break. Another way of discouraging diaper rash from forming is to encourage air flow. After bathing and cleaning the area, let the affected area air dry if at all possible. There are products on the market that encourage airflow with micropores, or promote breathability, and both of these will help to discourage the formation of diaper rash. Try to purchase products that are labeled “hypoallergenic” to help prevent allergic reactions, such as rashes, from forming.

In Conclusion

Remember that most cases of diaper rash will clear up within a day or two, three at the most. If it doesn’t clear up with treatment, or if it worsens during that time, you must seek out a healthcare professional. If the rash is accompanied by other symptoms, such as a high fever, severe aches and pains, blisters that peel, ooze pus, or bleed, you need to seek out a doctor immediately, as these are signs of an infection of some sort.

- Written By

Sarah Johnson

Aging in Place Expert
Sarah Johnson is an Aging in Place Expert with extensive experience helping seniors remain independent and comfortable in their homes. She has specialized knowledge of how to help elderly individuals stay healthy, safe, and happy as they age. Sarah is passionate about providing quality care for aging adults, allowing them to remain in their homes and enjoy the highest quality of life.