Identify and Treat a Yeast Diaper Rash at Home

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“Diaper rash” is a blanket term that describes diaper dermatitis, an inflammation in the diaper area. It can be caused by a number of factors including feces, ammonia (from urine and feces), diarrhea, yeast, bacteria, an irritant such as soap, and more seriously, cellulitis or staph infection.

A yeast diaper rash (candidiasis) is caused by an overgrowth of the fungus Candida albicans, which is naturally present in the intestinal tract and mucus membranes.

A man smiles down at a baby who is laying on a bed as he changes the baby's diaper.

JGI / Jamie Grill / Getty Images

Identifying a Yeast Diaper Rash

A yeast diaper rash causes the skin in the diaper area to become bright red. Some defining characteristics of a yeast diaper rash include:

  • Smaller patches that blend in with the bigger patches, or the entire diaper area may become red
  • Raised borders that may have small bumps and pus-filled pimples
  • Usually worse in the skin folds
  • The scrotum or vulva may become very red and scaly
  • Shiny appearance
  • Skin may crack, ooze, or have sores present (severe cases)

While it is not usually painful, a yeast diaper rash can be itchy and irritating.

Candida albicans can also cause a yeast infection in the mouth called thrush. Oral thrush appears in white patches that look like milk curds, but when scraped off reveal a sore and reddened area.

Symptoms of Diaper Rash by Type
Yeast  Irritant Bacteria Allergy 
Bright red

May cover entire diaper area

May have raised borders, small bumps, pus-filled pimples

Worse in skin folds

May have shiny appearance
Pink or red patches on the skin in the diaper area

Skin folds less affected (protected from feces and urine)
Bright red skin around the anus

Yellow crusting, weeping, or pimples
Rash in the area that a certain product is used or applied (wipes, soaps, etc.)
Source: American Academy of Pediatrics

How Yeast Causes Diaper Rash

Candida albicans occurs naturally in the bodies of healthy people. Yeast diaper rashes are not contagious to other people and occur due to an overgrowth of this naturally occurring fungus.

Candida albicans thrives in warm, moist areas, like in the folds of skin and in the area covered by a diaper.

Yeast diaper rashes are more likely to occur:

  • When the diaper area is not kept clean and dry
  • If the baby is on antibiotics
  • If the nursing parent is on antibiotics
  • If the baby has frequent bowel movements

It is possible to have more than one type of diaper rash at a time. If a diaper rash is not getting better with typical treatments, it is likely yeast is present as well.

Conditions That Can Mimic Diaper Rash

Some conditions can develop from or mimic diaper rash. These include:

Prevention and Home Remedies

The best ways to prevent and treat most diaper rashes include:

  • Change the baby’s diaper promptly and regularly.
  • Thoroughly clean the diaper area with a warm, damp cloth and pat dry. Make sure there are no feces in “hidden” places such as the skin folds of the legs or under the scrotum.
  • Don’t rub the diaper area when cleaning; pat or clean gently. Use a squirt bottle of water if necessary.
  • Change the baby’s diaper at least once during the night.
  • Don’t put the diaper on tightly. If necessary, cut the elastic legs of a disposable diaper in a few areas to allow air to reach the baby’s skin.
  • If using soap, make sure it is gentle and scent-free.
  • Don’t over-clean affected areas.
  • Liberally apply topical barriers such as zinc oxide paste or petroleum jelly to clean, dry skin to keep urine and feces away from the skin.
  • Do not use powders such as talc or cornstarch, which trap moisture in and can make the yeast infection worse. Talc is also harmful to the baby’s lungs.
  • Let the diaper area air out by keeping the diaper off for five or ten minutes during change time (after cleaning and before putting on a new diaper) or allowing the baby to have diaper-free play time periodically.
  • Avoid baby wipes that contain alcohol, perfume, or propylene glycol.
  • Wash hands before and after every diaper change.

In addition to these practices, a yeast diaper rash is treated with topical antifungal treatments.

The baby’s healthcare provider may prescribe a cream or ointment, or they may recommend an over-the-counter medication such as Lotrimin. They may also prescribe or recommend an anti-itch medication.

When to Call the Doctor

If a diaper rash has lasted more than three days with at-home remedies, it is likely a yeast diaper rash and may require antifungal treatments. A healthcare provider can confirm this diagnosis and recommend treatment.

Contact a healthcare provider if:

  • The rash isn’t getting a lot better after three days of using antifungal medication
  • The rash is getting worse
  • The rash shows signs of infection (sores, scabs, increased pain, swelling, warmth, redness, red streaks leading from the rash, pus drainage)
  • A fever develops
  • There is unusual or foul-smelling drainage in the affected skin areas
  • The baby is fussier than usual, or is crying a lot and is difficult to soothe
  • New symptoms develop, such as blisters, open sores, raw skin, or bleeding
  • The rash spreads outside of the diaper area, such as the abdomen, back, arms, or face
  • The baby is less than six weeks old and has a rash
  • The baby is having recurrent yeast diaper rashes
  • You think your baby needs to be seen by a healthcare professional

What Types of Diaper Rash Need Medical Attention?

Rarely, diaper rash can have serious complications such as cellulitis or staph infection.

If you suspect your child has a bacterial diaper rash, see a healthcare professional to get a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

If your child shows any signs of infection, seek medical care promptly.

A Word From Verywell

Yeast diaper rashes are uncomfortable for babies and concerning for parents. Thankfully, they are rarely serious and can often be prevented.

If a yeast diaper rash does arise, it can be successfully treated with good hygiene practices, over-the-counter creams and ointments, and antifungal medication.

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Article Sources
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  2. Jain A, Jain S, Rawat S. Emerging fungal infections among children: a review on its clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and preventionJ Pharm Bioallied Sci. 2010;2(4):314-320. doi:10.4103/0975-7406.72131

  3. American Academy of Pediatrics. Common diaper rashes & treatments. Updated January 2020.

  4. Seattle Children's. Diaper rash. Updated April 2021.