Adult Diaper Rash – Causes, Treatment, and Prevention

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This post was reviewed by our Director of Clinical Excellence and Oversight.

Adult diaper rash is a skin condition that can turn incontinence management into a very painful and uncomfortable experience. It’s one of the most common challenges for people with incontinence.

Luckily, adult diaper rash is easy to treat and prevent. Understanding why it happens and following some basic prevention techniques can help reduce the risk and provide a healthier, happier experience.

Adult diaper rash is a common challenge for people with incontinence, learn more

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What is Adult Diaper Rash?

Adult diaper rash is a skin condition in which the surface of the skin becomes irritated or inflamed, causing pain and discomfort. It consists of a red or pink spot on the skin that is painful when touched or rubbed. Generally speaking, adult diaper rash is fairly minor and will heal within 24 hours if treated properly.

NOTE: While adult diaper rash is most common among people using incontinence products, it’s very possible for other people to experience it as well.

Symptoms

Here are some of the common symptoms affiliated with adult diaper rash:

  • Pink or red area on the skin
  • Inflamed or slightly raised skin
  • Area on the skin that’s painful when touched or rubbed.
  • Mild skin breakdown or deterioration.

Causes of Adult Diaper Rash

Adult diaper rash can be caused by numerous things. Here are a few of the most common reasons:

Friction

One of the most common causes of adult diaper rash is excessive rubbing or friction against the skin. If the adult diaper (or other fabric) rubs against the skin when worn, then this can cause the skin to inflame and become irritated. This irritation will form into adult diaper rash.

Friction is a cause of adult diaper rash

Wetness

Another common cause of adult diaper rash is wetness on the skin. When the skin is exposed to too much moisture, it becomes over-hydrated. Too much hydration weakens skin cells and makes them far more sensitive to friction and skin breakdown. Moisture that consists of substances other than water (such as sweat or urine), can also increase the sensitivity of the skin.

Wetness is a cause of adult diaper rash

Allergic Reactions

Adult diaper rash can also be caused by an allergic reaction to a material in the diaper. A good sign of an allergy is if the rash encompasses a larger area, and is not isolated to a small spot. Allergic reactions can also develop much faster than rashes caused by friction.

Allergic reactions to diaper material is a cause of adult diaper rash

Infection

Bacterial and fungal infections are another common cause of diaper rash. Bacteria and fungus spores love to grow in warm, moist environments, which makes adult diapers a risk area. Specifically, the bacteria that causes yeast infections (known as candida), is a frequent culprit of causing diaper rash among adults.

Bacterial and fungal infections are causes of adult diaper rash

Treatment

Treating adult diaper rash is pretty simple and can be done at home. Most cases will clear up within 24 hours.

Apply a Medical Cream

There are some medical creams designed specifically to aid in the treatment of adult diaper rash. Specifically, Zinc Oxide barrier creams and skin protectants can help reduce irritation and assist in keeping the rash area dry. Use as directed by the product instructions.

There are some medical creams designed specifically to aid in the treatment of adult diaper rash HCD health

Keep The Area Dry

Keeping the diaper rash area dry is a great way to encourage the healing of diaper rash. Gently pat the rash area with a soft, absorbent tissue or towel, and try to keep the affected area exposed to air as much as possible. This will keep moisture from weakening the cells and allow them to heal more quickly.

Keeping the diaper rash area dry is a great way to encourage the healing of diaper rash HCD health

Limit Friction

One of the easiest ways to treat adult diaper rash is to avoid contact with the affected area. Contact with clothing or the diaper material could cause further irritation, so try to keep the area free from contact with these kinds of materials. This will prevent further irritation and give the rash time to heal.

One of the easiest ways to treat adult diaper rash is to avoid contact with the affected area HCD health

Prevention

Here are some things you can to do help prevent adult diaper rash from developing:

Use the Right Product

One of the leading reasons that adult diaper rash is not using the right incontinence product. The wrong incontinence product, especially the wrong product size, can lead to increased friction and more wetness, both of which are leading causes of adult diaper rash. Making sure you are in the right product will drastically reduce your risk.

For a quick and easy way to see if you’re in the right product, try our incontinence product finder. You can also use it to find out if your insurance can help cover the cost of your products.

One of the leading reasons that adult diaper rash is not using the right incontinence product HCD health

NOTE: Using the wrong incontinence product for your needs can increase risk for other skin conditions. Read about other incontience-related skin conditions and how to prevent them.

Change Frequently

Changing your product as soon as it becomes wet will help prevent rashes from forming. When changing, be sure to thoroughly pat the skin dry before securing the new product. This will help ensure that moisture does not become trapped and cause a rash to form.

Changing your product as soon as it becomes wet will help prevent rashes from forming

Expose Area to Air

Regular airflow to the skin can help prevent adult diaper rash from forming, so try to give your skin some time to “air out.” When possible, remove your product and let the skin breathe. You can also use this as an opportunity to wipe away any moisture that may have accumulated.

Regular airflow to the skin can help prevent adult diaper rash from forming

Wash Thoroughly

Be sure to thoroughly wash any skin covered by the incontinence product. Washing will help remove urine and stool that can lead to adult diaper rash. Use of a mild, pH balanced skin cleanser or plain water is usually recommended. Be sure to pat the area dry before securing a new product.

Be sure to thoroughly wash any skin covered by the incontinence product

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Disclaimer:
Unless otherwise noted, the recommendations in this document were obtained from the sources indicated. Be advised that information contained herein is intended to serve as a useful reference for informational purposes only. HCD cannot be held responsible for the continued accuracy of or for any errors or omissions in the information. All trademarks and registered trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

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