No matter how hard you try to avoid it, nappy rash is one of the most common issues that all parents will face – often with children at any age.
Yet what really causes these nappy rashes and makes them so difficult to get rid of? There is a lot of misinformation out there about the likely causes and quite a lot of information advising that the only way to avoid is to use disposable nappies.
Now, isn’t that just a typical short cut and band aid solution of our time? Instead of being lazy and going with the convenient option, read on and find out the REAL deal about nappy rash!
What Causes Nappy Rash? Though some say that rashes are caused by a combination of factors, what mainly brings on nappy rash is prolonged exposure to wetness, particularly if said wetness is very strong (caustic or acidic) or has fecal matter involved also.
The Low Down on Poop and Bottoms
Fecal matter is FULL, positively FULL of bacteria – the bacteria that the body does not want. This bacterial environment is also highly acidic (bad bacteria thrive in acid, good bacteria like it alkaline). Even if any sane and regular adult sat in their own poop for an hour or more, they would have a red raw bottom to show for it.
Is that anything to do with the type of underwear they are wearing? No! Its to do with the bacterial count in fecal matter – in addition to the acidity of typical urine. Combine these two and you’ve got a recipe for skin burn or nappy rash.
What About Wee?
Urea is excreted in urine and starts to break down when outside the body, releasing ammonia. Baby skin has a pH level of about 7.4 which is slightly more alkaline than adult skin. Human urine has a typical pH of about 6, though it can range from 4.5 to 7.5 depending on diet.
With babies having slightly more alkaline skin, any acidity in their wee that is left close to their skin for a time will result in redness at first and more severe rash at a later stage, if exposure is prolonged. This can happen in cloth nappies and disposable nappies alike and neither one is more responsible for causing nappy rash than the other. Both types should be changed often – as soon as when wet – to help keep nappy rash at bay.
Does Teething Play a Role?
Contrary to popular opinion, it has been shown that when a child is teething, there is more urea in the urine, making it much stronger as there is more ammonia present. This actually creates a CAUSTIC environment - as ammonia has a pH of 10.5 which is very caustic - and this can lead to bouts of more serious nappy rash.
The best way to combat this? Change regularly and keep the baby dry. Nappy free time is a great thing to introduce when baby is teething.
The Balancing Act
The delicate pH balance for babies is a indeed a balancing act – to acidic and you will have a reaction; to caustic and you will also have a reaction. You are aiming for pH neutral or slightly alkaline to ensure the best possible nappy environment for your baby.
One of the best ways to ensure a more pH neutral environment is to maximise breathability or oxygen flow to the area. This video clearly demonstrates the LACK of breathability in disposable nappies and why cloth can be a better alternative for nappy rash sufferers.
In addition to wet and stool filled nappies, the plastic and synthetic materials used in nappies can make the rash worse since they block air circulation as they are not breathable. There have been cases reported in the UK, USA and Australia of second and third degree chemical burns from the chemicals used in disposable nappies. These chemicals react with the presence of urine, urea and ammonia in the nappy, and that chemical reaction causes severe burning at worst and irritation at best to delicate baby
Aside from the aforementioned chemical issues with disposable nappies, there are some things to be aware of when using cloth nappies also. If the cloth nappies aren’t washed properly and there is soap or detergent residue left behind in them, your baby’s rash can take a turn for the worst.
What to Do About Nappy Rash
The first thing to remember is that you shouldn’t panic. Nappy rash is a common thing that happens to almost all babies who wear nappies or cloth nappies. The main thing to focus on is that you need to keep your baby’s sensitive area covered with a clean and dry nappy or aring – nothing in between.
In cases of prolonged rash, you should change the nappy more often, especially when they start eating solids or when they are teething.
A Warning About Treatment Creams
Be careful with medicated creams as they will not only damage your cloth nappies but are also full of toxic ingredients which WILL cross the skin barrier and get into the blood stream.
Examples of some of these ingredients are listed below for your reference:
Benzyl benzoate, BP
Pesticide; can be derived from Cinnamon Oil or can be synthetic version which is the chemical used to kill head lice and is associated with a variety of adverse effects.
Benzyl alcohol, BP
mild anesthetic, disinfectant; synthetic version made by mixing benzyl chloride with sodium hydroxide
antibacterial, antifungal; derived from cinnamic acid and benzyl alcohol
As you can see, the main ingredients in a popular over the counter treatment cream do little to CURE or resolve the CAUSE of the rash, and just mask it using anesthetic (pain relief) or disinfecting the area with heavy duty chemicals. Worse yet, the creams assume that nappy is caused by fungal or microbial activity like yeasts and the like, so they douse the area with anti-fungals and pesticides.
If you had a rash on your arm, would you pour on the Bushman's Insect Repellant?! I doubt it.
Why not switch to an all natural barrier ointment like coconut oil or pure paw paw ointment to start with? This protects the skin by forming a barrier between the skin and urine or fecal matter.
Should a rash then take hold, consider some of the natural and therapeutic options available such as the Essential Salve featured in our online store. These options are gentle, natural, effective and are often infused with medicinal herbs used for hundreds of years for skin irritation. Why not trust nature has known all along instead of what science is guessing?
Happy Cloth Nappy-ing!
The Team at Lavenderia