An anal fissure can be painful for an infant and worrying for parents, but this common childhood problem is typically short-lived. Parents who take care to properly clean the diaper area can help prevent anal fissures and help speed healing when they do occur.
An anal fissure occurs when the mucous lining of the anus becomes torn. Anal fissures are common in babies. About 80 percent of infants develop these fissures before their first birthdays, according to Medline Plus. In some cases, the fissure is a small crack in the skin, but in other cases the only evidence is blood in the baby's diaper or diaper wipe. Any blood seen in the stool should be reported to a pediatrician so that he can assess whether it is a fissure or something more serious.
Anal fissures in infants are sometime linked to underlying disorders. Among them is Crohn's disease, an inflammatory bowel disorder. In other cases, constipation can cause an anal fissure.
Most anal fissures in infants resolve on their own. Parents can encourage healing by providing frequent diaper changes and thoroughly cleaning the area during each change. But if the fissure does not heal, a doctor's intervention may be required. One possible treatment is a change to the infant's diet to alleviate constipation. If the fissure becomes chronic, lasting longer than six weeks, the doctor may even perform surgery to relax the anal sphincter, although this is rarely necessary in babies.
In babies, the primary way to prevent anal fissures is to keep the diaper area as clean as possible. The diaper should be changed as soon as it becomes wet or soiled. A soft cloth should be used to clean the baby's bottom, and it should be dry before a new diaper is put on. For some infants, the elimination of certain foods, such as dairy products, and the addition of fluids to the diet may reduce the incidence of anal fissures.
Adult hemorrhoid remedies should not be used on infants, warns the Baby Center. These products are designed for use by adults and can damage the sensitive anal area of infants and small children.