Q: My mother told me to clean my baby's bottom with a mild vinegar-water solution to clear up diaper rash. Since vinegar is an acid like urine, won't it just further irritate the rash?
A: As you know, at one time all babies wore cloth diapers. A vinegar rinse for those diapers was sometimes suggested, since diaper rash was blamed on the irritating effect of ammonia. Ammonia is produced in a wet diaper when bacteria act on the urea in urine. Vinegar -- an acid -- was recommended to neutralize the ammonia -- a base. We suspect your mother and, perhaps others, decided to apply the treatment directly to the baby. However, vinegar on your baby's bottom is misplaced therapy.
Diaper rashes are appropriately named, because the diaper does cause the rash. The diaper traps moisture next to the baby's skin. The outer layers swell, like your hands do when they stay in water too long. The swollen skin is easily damaged by the rubbing of the diaper. Damaged skin is not resistant to irritating chemicals and germs. A rash can result. The best treatment (and prevention) for diaper rash is to keep the baby's skin clean and dry.