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Adult Diaper Rash: Causes, Prevention, & Treatment

by Chad Reynolds


Incontinence products offer a convenient method for managing incontinence, allowing you to go on with your daily life without worrying about leaks and odors. However, most adults who wear incontinence underwear experience rashes from time to time. Getting a rash from your underwear can make managing incontinence difficult and uncomfortable. Let's explore what causes adult diaper rash and how to treat and prevent future occurrences.

What Is Adult Diaper Rash?

An adult diaper rash is a skin condition that irritates the area underneath and around the diaper. A rash may manifest as small, tender, itchy, and painful pink and red bumps.

Diaper rash can form on the surface of your pubic area or buttocks. However, you may develop a rash between your buttocks and around the folds of your genitalia. Rashes can also form in areas where your underwear's elastic bunches, such as around the waist or at the junction between your thighs and private parts.

A mild diaper rash may redden some parts of your skin, making it feel itchy and warm to the touch. A more severe rash affects larger areas of your skin, causing painful bumps with tender heads. The bumps on your skin may break, releasing pus and blood before leaving lesions or sores.

Causes of Adult Diaper Rash

There are various reasons why adults dealing with incontinence can develop adult diaper rash.


You may develop a rash in the parts where the underwear is in close contact with your skin, including the elastic edges around your waist and legs. Snug or ill-fitting diapers rub against your skin, causing chafing that results in dry, discolored, and broken skin.

Friction can also occur when your skin comes into contact with the waste stored in your incontinence product. A soggy, heavy piece of underwear can weigh on your skin, causing irritation that develops into a more severe rash.

You may also notice a rash developing in areas with skin folds because these parts may rub against each other as you move. Rashes can form between skin folds during warm months as heat and sweat intensify.

Allergic Reaction

You can develop a rash if you're allergic to the chemicals or materials used to make your underwear.

The average incontinence product has a topsheet, a distribution layer, and a core. The topsheet is the part that stays in contact with your genitals and surrounding areas. Most underwear has a topsheet made from non-woven plastic or cotton, allowing liquids and waste to quickly pass down to the distribution layer.

The distribution layer sits below the topsheet and spreads the waste you release across the underwear's core. It can be made from cotton or pulp from wheat and corn. The core, which stores the waste, can be made from absorbent polymers that keep the waste in place until the layer fills up.

Some products have a plastic backsheet that prevents any leaks to your garments. Some use perfumes to control odors and elastics to secure the diaper in place.

You may develop a rash if you're allergic to materials used to make the outer and inner layers of the underwear. Such rashes are often itchy and spread quickly across your skin as the allergy intensifies.


Consistent exposure to fluids softens your skin, making it more likely to break and become affected by chemicals that cause irritation.

Staying with a product for too long or wearing a badly-constructed piece that allows waste to leak through increases the chances of developing a rash.

During warm months, sweat can get trapped between skin folds, resulting in skin sensitivity and rashes.

Poor Hygiene

You can develop a rash if you don't change your underwear on time or remove all traces of urine and stool before wearing a fresh piece.

A full product doesn't have enough material to absorb further waste. As a result, urine and feces remain in contact with your skin for longer than they should, causing irritation.

Moreover, failing to wash and dry your skin properly before putting on another piece of underwear can prolong your skin's exposure to the chemicals in urine and stool.

Yeast and Fungal Infections

Yeast and other fungi thrive in moist areas, especially between skin folds. A yeast infection can cause red and itchy bumps on your skin that can be dry and flaky. The bumps may also release pus and fluid on your skin.

Bacteria can also eat into your skin, causing inflamed, red bumps to form on your skin. A bacterial rash often develops blisters with yellow heads and red streaks in the middle.

Adult Diaper Rash Symptoms

The characteristics or symptoms of rash can range depending on the causes and severity. Most times, you can tell that you're about to develop a rash if you experience:

  • Dry and flaky patches of skin
  • Discoloration that causes your skin to be pink, red or purple
  • Skin burning or itchiness
  • Tender bumps that may be painful to the touch

More advanced symptoms of adult diaper rash include:

  • Blisters with blood or pus-filled heads
  • Red, broken skin that leaks blood
  • The rash quickly spreads across a large area of your skin
  • Infections that cause a fever

Adult Diaper Rash Treatment

Since adult diaper rash is a common problem, you can quickly treat it with home remedies and over-the-counter medication. 

Here are a few tips on how to treat adult diaper rash before it develops into a more severe health problem.

Apply a Medical Cream

A medical cream protects the affected area from further friction and irritation so it can heal. Creams with anti-inflammatory properties reduce itching and swelling, eliminating any bumps caused by the rash. 

Over-the-counter medical creams can eliminate a rash within a day or two, so keep a tub in your medicine cabinet to use whenever you notice the symptoms of a rash.

Keep Dry

Moisture weakens the skin, making it vulnerable to irritation and infections. To treat a moisture-induced skin rash, dry your skin with a clean towel after showering or when changing the underwear.

You can also spread baby powder over your skin and between skin folds before wearing a product, especially during the warm months. The powder reduces sweat formation in the covered area of your skin, keeping it strong and resistant to inflammation and infections.

Limit Friction

You can reduce friction by wearing fitting adult incontinence products. Ensure your product doesn't bunch around your legs or waist to prevent chafing. Additionally, the underwear shouldn't be too tight around your privates since this will increase friction and compromise its ability to absorb waste properly.

If you have a rash, don't scratch it or attempt to burst the inflamed heads. Use medication to reduce the itchiness and allow the inflammation to heal. 

You can also spread ointments or petroleum jelly before replacing your diaper to reduce its contact with your skin.

When to See Your Doctor

With proper care, a rash should clear within a week or two. However, you should see your doctor if the rash rejects treatment and continues to spread over your skin.

Rashes with blisters and pus can also erupt and leave open sores across your skin. A doctor can offer treatment methods that won't further aggravate the issue.

Additionally, you should see a doctor if the rash spreads into your genitals and causes an itchy or burning sensation when you urinate or pass stool.


A rash should be a mild skin condition that doesn't cause further damage to your body. However, in some cases, an adult diaper rash can cause complications.

Rashes caused by allergies can cause anaphylaxis or swelling that impairs your breathing ability. Use an EpiPen or visit the nearest emergency room to lower the chances of a stroke or death.

A skin rash that breaks the skin can become infected by a virus or bacteria, causing a fever. Prescription medication can combat the infection and restore your skin's health.

Adult Diaper Rash Prevention

As with most things, preventing skin irritation and rash is better than curing it. Here are a few tips on how to prevent an adult diaper rash.

Use the Right Product

Finding the right product for managing incontinence can reduce discomfort, allergic reactions, and the occurrence of skin rash.

Incontinence pads can be more comfortable than underwear since they don't have elastic that needs to be secured around your waist and legs to provide sufficient hold.

Incontinence underwear is another good alternative to diaper pads. These Nexwear Premium Protective Underwear are made from comfortable, fabric-like material that feels just like regular underwear. They feature an in-built elastic band, so you only need to pull up the underwear to get a secure hold. They're also highly absorbent, providing several hours of use before they need to be changed.

Change Frequently

Changing your incontinence product whenever it's full reduces your skin's exposure to the chemicals in urine and feces, protecting it from harmful bacteria that can cause rashes and infections.

Monitor your incontinence to know how much waste your body releases and determine the absorbency you should seek from your incontinence products.

Carry multiple products as you go about your daily life to ensure you always have an extra one to change into if the one you're wearing fills up before you get back home.

Expose Area to Air

The materials adult incontinence products are made from can make it difficult for your skin to breathe, causing excessive sweating and irritation.

Leave the area under your product exposed to air for at least five minutes every time you remove the underwear. Fresh air helps your skin breathe and dry naturally. It also reduces odors caused by sweat and waste.

Wash Thoroughly

Proper hygiene is crucial for incontinence management. 

Wipe the area with wet wipes every time you change, allowing it to dry before putting on a fresh product.

Wash your skin with mild soap and a soft cloth at least once daily to remove any stool and urine traces. 

Pat the area dry with a clean towel every time it's exposed to water and moisture before wearing a clean diaper to lower the chances of moisture-induced infections. 

The Bottom Line

Adult diaper rash is a common problem among people dealing with incontinence. Most rashes can be quickly handled at home with proper hygiene practices and over-the-counter medication.

Finding the right product for incontinence management is another way of preventing skin rash. Request a free sample of Nexwear leak-proof, odor-resistant pads today to smooth your incontinence management journey.


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