Disposable diapers are a convenience for most parents, but a few babies are allergic to them. Yeast infections, diaper rashes and food sensitivities may cause symptoms that resemble an allergic reaction, so it's important for parents to know the symptoms of a diaper allergy. If you think your child may be allergic to disposable diapers, consult your pediatrician. He will perform an exam or allergy tests to determine whether you need to switch to alternative diapers.
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A diaper allergy is really an allergy to a particular component of diapers. The absorbent gel in many diapers is a common cause of allergic reactions. Some babies are allergic to dyes and fragrances contained in some diapers. Very rarely, babies are allergic to cotton, plastic and other fibers in diapers, according to pediatrician William Sears. In many cases, what appears to be an allergic reaction to the diaper is actually a food allergy. If your child develops a rash around his anus or has recently eaten a new food, the symptoms are likely caused by food and not diapers.
Diaper Allergy Symptoms
Diaper allergies typically manifest as red, slightly swollen blotches on the skin. The skin is typically raw and sensitive to the touch. Older babies may put their hands in their diapers attempting to alleviate the itching and burning. Some allergies cause discharge from the genitals or anus and dry patches on the skin. Other rashes and allergic reactions frequently resemble diaper allergies, so it's important to carefully note the precise symptoms your child has and consult your pediatrician. Fevers and vomiting are not normally associated with allergic reactions to diapers, so if your child has these symptoms, there may be something else wrong.
Diagnosing Diaper Allergies
The most common symptom of a diaper allergy is constant irritation where the diaper touches the skin, regardless of food intake, time spent in the diaper and other factors. Your pediatrician will ask you about the conditions under which your child develops the reaction to determine the cause of the allergy. You can use the location of the rash to determine the particular allergens causing the reaction. For example, a baby who develops a rash or redness in her genital area may be allergic to the gel in the diaper. Babies who develop rashes near the top of the diaper or on the entire area covered by the diaper may be allergic to the diaper fabric.
If your child suddenly develops a rash after switching to a new brand of diapers, she might be allergic to something in the diapers. Return to the old brand. If the symptoms go away, have your pediatrician examine your child and inspect the diaper that caused the rash. This may help you uncover the particular substance to which your child is allergic.
The most common diaper allergy is not an allergy to the diaper at all, but rather a reaction to something in the diaper, according to the American Academy of Pediatricians. Most diaper rashes are caused by yeast, a fungi. Pain, swelling and redness are allergic reactions to the yeast. Some children are allergic to diaper rash ointment, baby powder, baby wipes and other substances. Diapers press these substances to their skin, exacerbating the allergic reaction.
- "The Portable Pediatrician"; William Sears, M.D., et al.; 2011
- "Caring For Your Baby and Young Child"; American Academy of Pediatrics; 2009
- "Health, Safety and Nutrition for the Young Child"; Lynn R. Marotz; 2011