One in 18 children experience food allergies before age 3, according to pediatrician and author Dr. Alan Greene. Food allergies can trigger a variety of symptoms, including diarrhea. Frequent diarrhea associated with an undiagnosed food allergy -- as well as the allergen itself in the stool -- can irritate your baby’s delicate skin and cause diaper rash. Because diaper rash can become infected with bacteria and yeast, it’s essential to understand why it occurs and how it can be treated.
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What Are the Symptoms?
The most recognizable symptom of diaper rash caused by a food allergy is a bright ring around your baby’s anus. Tiny blisters, welts or pimple-like bumps around the buttocks, genitals and lower belly may also appear after your baby consumes foods like eggs, wheat, soy or cow's milk. Gastrointestinal symptoms, such as excess gas, constipation, nausea, loose stool, diarrhea and vomiting may also be present. In addition, mucus or streaks of blood can sometimes be found in your baby’s stool. Besides the physical symptoms, babies with a diaper rash can appear colicky and fussy.
Prevention Is Key
To help prevent future bouts of diaper rash, identify which food your child is allergic to and avoid it as much as possible. Although it can be difficult to identify a specific allergen, your child’s pediatrician can perform a test called RAST, or the radioallergosorbent test, as well as skin tests to detect the food culprit. While you and your baby’s pediatrician are diagnosing the food trigger, keep changing your baby’s diaper as soon as she has a bowel movement. You can also apply cornstarch to reduce friction.
Treat That Bum
The only way to truly eliminate diaper rash caused by a food allergy is to stop feeding your baby the suspected allergen. If you are a breastfeeding mother, eliminate the food from your diet, as well. With your doctor’s permission, you can try to reintroduce the food after a month. To treat the diaper rash, gently wash the affected area with warm water and a mild soap. Apply a barrier ointment that contains zinc oxide to your baby’s bum to help protect his skin, while the rash heals. Allow your baby to go diaper-free for as long as possible to increase air exposure to the rash.
Call your child’s pediatrician if your baby is extremely colicky or if the rash smells bad, is bright red, looks infected, does not respond to home remedies, covers the whole diaper area or doesn’t go away after five days. In severe cases, a food allergy can cause a life-threatening reaction, called anaphylactic shock. Seek immediate medical care if your baby experiences abnormal breathing, facial swelling, wheezing or heart palpitations.