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Yeast Infection vs. Diaper Rash in Infants, Toddlers, and Children

What are yeast infections and diaper rash in infants, babies, toddlers, and children?

Picture of a man and a baby on a changing table.
A yeast diaper rash infection can be caused by many things.

Yeast infections are infections by fungi (yeast) predominantly of the genus Candida, species albicans that may, depending on the health of an individual's immune system, cause superficial infections of mucocutaneous disease like thrush, to life-threatening invasive infections. 

Diaper rash is a term used to describe rashes that occur due to wearing a diaper (here confined to those worn by babies, infants, toddlers, and children up to about age 2. Peak incidence in diaper rash is ages 9-12 months.

What is the difference between a yeast infection and diaper rash?

Diaper rash lasting about 3 or more days may be caused by Candida in about 45%-75% of all diaper rashes in infants, babies, toddlers, and kids that wear diapers, and is considered Candidal diaper dermatitis or superficial mucocutaneous fungal infection. Consequently, a superficial yeast infection and diaper rash can be the same infection in many infants, babies, toddlers, and children.
 

How can you tell if it's a yeast infection or diaper rash?

If yeast cells are seen microscopically in diaper rash skin samples or in cultures, the rash is likely due to the fungi; if fungi is not found or cultured, the diaper rash probably has another cause.
 

What are the differences in the symptoms and signs of a yeast infection vs. diaper rash?

If diaper rash is caused by yeast. There are no significant differences in the signs and symptoms of yeast infections and diaper rash; however, diaper rash caused by yeast is reddish and macerated skin that is painful when touched or rubbed against the diaper, and may extend past the diaper and include the genitals. About 75% of female babies/young girls may develop vaginal yeast infections (vulvovaginal candidiasis).

What are the differences in the causes of yeast infections and diaper rash?

The main cause of most yeast infections are fungi in the genus Candida. Although this genus causes about 45%-75% of all diaper rashes, some diaper rashes are caused by:

  1. Skin overhydration
  2. Skin maceration
  3. Skin with prolonged contact with urine and feces
  4. Diaper soaps
  5. 3 or more diarrheal stools per day
  6. Biotin deficiency
  7. Contact dermatitis
  8. Allergic reactions

What exams or tests diagnose yeast infections and diaper rash?

Skin scrapings or biopsy material can be cultured or examined with a microscope after potassium hydroxide treatment that reveals the fungi, but is seldom used to diagnose diaper rash. Usually, observing a yeast infection and/or diaper rash is all that is needed. 

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What are the treatments for yeast infections and diaper rash?

Check with your pediatrician for their recommendations.

Can yeast infections or diaper rash be treated at home with natural remedies?

  • Changing diapers more often and keeping the diaper area clean and dry helps prevent all causes of diaper rash, including yeast. 
  • The chance of a yeast infection decreases when you allow some time for the child to be without a diaper, for example, lying the baby on a dry towel. 
  • Do not use diapers that fit too tightly against the skin. 
  • Over-the-counter home remedies are available, to treat yeast infections, for example, Desitin, A+D ointment, Triple Paste, and Vaseline for both prevention and treatment. 
  • Check with the child’s doctor before using any product on infants, babies, toddlers, and children for yeast infections and diaper rash. 
  • Severe diaper rash and/or yeast infections usually require additional treatments that may include systemic antifungals and even hospitalization.

Can yeast infections or diaper rashes be dangerous to infants, babies, toddlers, and children?

  • In general, most diaper rashes caused by yeast are not dangerous. The exceptions are those individuals; who are immunocompromised because yeast may proliferate and become systemic. 
  • Severe yeast infections and/or diaper rash may lead to skin breaks that allow other organisms to infect the person.

Can yeast infections and diaper rash be cured?

Yes. Most yeast infections and diaper rash can be cured. However; bad or severe yeast infections in munocompromised individuals may be difficult to cure.

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Reviewed on 1/10/2020
References
Agrawal, R, et al. Diaper Dermatitis (Diaper Rash). Medscape. Updated: Aug 23, 2019.
<https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/911985-overview#a2>

Hidalgo, J, et al. Candidiasis. Medscape. Updated: Apr 4, 2019.
<https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/213853-overview#a5>
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