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How to Tell if it’s Just Diaper Rash or a Yeast Infection

Baby in green diaper

Oh no. You see a rash on your baby’s butt. You know it could be just a plain ol’ garden-variety diaper rash. Nearly all babies have it sooner or later. (It’s especially common between 4 and 12 months, and peak incidence occurs around 9-12 months.) But if you’re wondering if it’s a diaper rash or a yeast infection, read on.  

The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) summarize the six likely possibilities for a rash in the diaper area.

  • Irritation from urine or stool
  • Friction
  • Candida infection (“yeast”)
  • Allergic reaction
  • New foods
  • Antibiotics

Hence, there are lots of possible explanations.

Is there a difference in signs and symptoms?

Dr. Charles Patrick Davis at MedicineNet says: “There are no significant differences in the signs and symptoms of yeast infections and diaper rash; however, diaper rash caused by yeast is reddish and macerated skin that is painful when touched or rubbed against the diaper, and may extend past the diaper and include the genitals.”

Far be it from me to contradict him. (And, as always, I’m just giving information, not medical advice!) Yet, you’re probably trying to keep your baby out of the doctor’s office, so determining if it’s diaper rash or a yeast infection might be high on your wish list these days.

Therefore, I’ve created a list of pertinent questions you can ask yourself. And, you may want to share your answers with your doctor or your baby’s doctor.

What has already happened?

If you were short on disposable diapers, maybe you delayed a little too long before changing those diapers. During a bout of diarrhea, it can be almost impossible to change the diapers every time your baby oozes some liquid stool. These are common examples that might explain the diaper rash.

If your older infant has eaten some new foods, he may be having an allergic reaction. Here’s a list of common offenders. You know what’s going to happen when that offending food comes out the other end!

If your baby has been on antibiotic therapy, stools may look different, and a rash may follow.

Are you a breastfeeding mother who has had antibiotic therapy? If so, consider the possibility of a yeast infection. Antibiotics knock out your body’s “friendly” bacteria. In that case:

  • You might see yeast on your nipples. It doesn’t have to be white. It can be red, or pink. It may have a shiny appearance.
  • You might have yeast on your nipples, but you can’t see it. 
  • You might see thrush in your baby’s mouth or yeast in the diaper area. Or not!

People think that yeast infections only happen “later.” However, candidiasis — yeast or thrush — can happen even during the first week after birth.

 Where is the rash located?

A more generalized rash is more likely to be more in the “general” diaper area. A rash due to a food allergy or the stool is more likely to be concentrated in the anal area. A yeast-related rash is more likely to be prominent in the genital area, and less so near the anus.

A yeast rash may look red, or bright red, or it might even have a scalded appearance.

How long is it lasting?

First, try some special techniques and see if there’s any improvement. Simple things:

  • gently spraying rather than wiping the area,
  • making sure the baby’s skin is completely dry before putting a new diaper on
  • leaving the diaper off (air drying) for several minutes

A diaper rash due to skin irritation, if attended to, will probably show improvement in a few days.

A yeast infection in the diaper is more likely to persist past 3 days.

What products are you using?   

Skin irritations are often caused by the products you are using, such as laundry detergent. And, you might want to try different brands of diapers, or even the same company’s specialty diapers, such as the Pure Protection line from Pampers. That may help.

Whether cloth diapers are better than disposable has been an ongoing debate for decades. But if it were my kid, I’d go with the idea that cotton is breathable, and I’d use 100% cotton diapers because of their many benefits. You may not want to use them forever. But getting away from disposable plastic diapers, at least for a while, is worth a shot. NuAngel is giving our readers 15% off with coupon code MARIE15.

What else is going on now?

Is your baby refusing to nurse? Or trying to nurse, but then popping on and off the breast?

If so, it might be thrush (the oral form of candidiasis). It will look sort of like white fuzz. It can be nearly anywhere in the mouth. But check on the inside of the upper or lower lips, or on the inside of the cheeks.

Oral thrush might signal a yeast rash in the diaper area. These can co-exist, OR they can be separate. Hard to say, but it’s worth a look.

What’s a parent to do?

Certainly, there are rashes or skin conditions that warrant medical follow up. The AAFP gives very clear directives for when to call the physicians. They also give several strategies for prevention and treatment.

What do you do for your baby’s diaper rash? How do you know it’s time to go to a doctor? Tell me your thoughts below and share with a friend who might benefit!

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