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Diaper dermatitis

Kimberly A Horii, MD
Section Editors
Moise L Levy, MD
Jan E Drutz, MD
Deputy Editor
Rosamaria Corona, MD, DSc


Diaper dermatitis, also called diaper rash, napkin dermatitis, and nappy rash, is the most common skin eruption in infants and toddlers [1-3]. It typically occurs on convex skin surfaces that are in direct contact with the diaper, including the buttocks, lower abdomen, genitalia, and upper thighs (figure 1).

Although in most cases diaper dermatitis is a form of irritant contact dermatitis, eruptions in the diaper area may represent exacerbations of more diffuse skin diseases, such as seborrheic dermatitis or atopic dermatitis, or may be the manifestation of unrelated skin conditions that coincidently manifest in the diaper area (table 1) [3,4].

The clinical features, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of irritant diaper dermatitis will be reviewed here. Contact dermatitis in children is discussed separately. (See "Contact dermatitis in children".)


The reported incidence and age of onset of diaper dermatitis vary worldwide, in relation to differences in diaper use, toilet training, hygiene, and child-rearing practices in different countries [5-8]. In the United States, dermatitis of the diaper area represents 10 to 20 percent of all skin disorders evaluated by the general pediatrician [5-7].

According to the 1990-1997 National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, there were 8.2 million pediatric visits for diaper dermatitis, and the calculated risk of developing diaper dermatitis throughout childhood was one in four [7]. In infants, the estimated prevalence of diaper dermatitis ranges from 7 to 35 percent [7]. Diaper dermatitis can develop as early as one week of age, but the peak incidence occurs between 9 and 12 months [9,10].

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Aug 11, 2016.
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