How can you prevent diaper rash?

If your child's diaper area looks irritated and red, chances are it's diaper rash. The skin may also be a little puffy and feel warm when you touch it. Diaper rash can be mild or extensive, with tender red bumps that spread to your child's tummy and thighs. Diaper rash can be caused by anything from your child's own urine to a new food. Most parents have to deal with diaper rash at some point, especially in the first year or so of their child's life.

How can you prevent diaper rash?

Here are some good preventive measures to keep diaper rash at bay:

A dry bottom is the best defense against diaper rash, so change your child's diaper frequently or as soon as possible after it becomes wet or soiled.

Clean your child's genital area thoroughly with each diaper change.

Pat her skin dry – never rub it.

If your child seems prone to diaper rash, spread a thin layer of protective ointment on her bottom after each diaper change.

Don't use powders or cornstarch because the particles can be harmful to a child's lungs if inhaled. Also, some experts think cornstarch can make a yeast diaper rash worse.

When your child starts eating solid foods, introduce one item at a time. Waiting a few days between each new food makes it easier to determine whether a sensitivity to a new food is causing diaper rash. If it is, eliminate that food for the time being.

Don't secure the diaper so tightly that there's no room for air to circulate. Dress her in loose clothing.

Use fragrance-free diapers and wipes, and skip the fabric softener – both can irritate your child's skin.

Breastfeed your child for as long as you can because diaper rash occurs less often in breastfed babies, although it isn't completely clear why.

When your child does need to take an antibiotic, ask the doctor about giving her a probiotic as well. Probiotics encourage the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut, which may reduce your child's chances of getting a diaper rash.

If your child goes to daycare or preschool, make sure that her caregivers understand the importance of taking these precautions. Don't forget practice makes it perfect.