The Ugly Rash

D. E. Larsen, DVM

I watched as Sandy was getting ready to change diapers on our young daughter. She was four months old and jabbering in complete sentences. Of course, nobody could understand her, but she seemed confident in what she was saying.

That was at least the way she was most of the time. When her diapers were wet, she howled. She was obviously uncomfortable. In reality, she was in pain.

We had been struggling with a diaper rash for the last couple of months. Sandy had a battery of products that filled the entire basket. The doctor had one suggestion after the other. And nothing changed things that much.

“How does it today,” I asked? 

“I think it is worse,” Sandy said. “There are sores now, not just a rash. These sores are deep, and they cover her whole bottom.”

I  looked over Sandy’s shoulder as she carefully cleaned the inflamed baby’s bottom. She patted it dry, and one could see a mild red rash across the entire bottom. Multiple deep erosions, the size of the eraser end of a pencil, superimposed on the inflammation.

“What do they have you using now,” I asked? “Did you ask about using a little Neosporin or something for infection?”

“No. Doctor Carlson was busy and behind schedule, so I didn’t get a chance to talk to him much. But he didn’t seem to be very concerned.”

“I think you should let me take her to the next visit,” I said.

“You don’t have the time. You are in clinics all day. Besides, we are not going to treat our daughter like you would treat a cow.”

“Well, I am a ways from graduation, but I have already learned that if what you are doing is not working, it is time to do something else.”

“She goes back tomorrow to see Dr. Carlson,” Sandy said. “I will make sure he understands your frustration.”

“Tell him it is his last chance,” I said. “If he doesn’t solve the problem, the next choice will come from my bag of tricks.”

“I am not going to tell him that. You need to learn some respect,” Sandy said with a scowl on her face.

When I got home the next day, Sandy applied a new ointment to the baby’s bottom.

“Dr. Carlson says this one usually works like magic,” Sandy said. “He doesn’t want to use any Neosporin or antibiotics at this point.”

I looked at the tube, A&D Ointment. It didn’t look much different from the others, only cost a little more.

“I will give you a few days, and we will see what happens,” I said.

On Saturday morning, I was up and changed diapers so Sandy could sleep in a little. There was virtually no change in the now deep ulcerations on the baby’s bottom. I smeared on the A&D ointment and rocked her back to sleep. 

I slipped out the door and drove to the veterinary hospital on CSU’s campus. I signed out a large tin of Bag Balm.

When I got back to the apartment, everyone was still asleep. I placed the tin of Bag Balm on top of the pile of Sandy’s pharmaceuticals. Then I started cooking a breakfast of pancakes with some bacon. Everyone was up by the time the cooking was done.

Sandy didn’t notice the large green tin with red lettering until after breakfast when she changed diapers.

“Where did this come from,” she asked?

“I picked it up at the hospital pharmacy this morning while you guys were sleeping.”

“The veterinary hospital pharmacy? I think this new ointment from Dr. Carlson is working. She is not nearly as uncomfortable with wet diapers as she was before.”

“The sores are no better. In fact, I think they are deeper,” I said. “I gave this tube of snake oil 3 days. That is all I ask for the Bag Balm.”

“Okay, but I don’t like it. This is not a cow’s udder,” Sandy said.

“Skin is skin,” I said. “I think you will be amazed.”

Three days later, the superficial portion of the rash was entirely resolved, and the deep ulcers were well on their way to be healed. The baby was comfortable. No more howling when her diaper was wet. As foretold, Sandy was amazed.

“Why don’t the doctors use this stuff,” Sandy asked?

“We are fast becoming an urban society. What would a mother, who was 3 or 4 generations removed from the farm, say if a doctor handed her a tin of Bag Balm?”

“Well, Doctor Carlson is at least going to hear the story,” Sandy said. “It just might save some other baby from the misery of a bad diaper rash.”

At the end of two weeks, the baby’s bottom was udderly normal. Sandy was convinced that I might just know a couple of things. And Bag Balm has been in our medicine cabinet ever since that episode.

Photo by zelle duda on Unsplash.

Published by d.e.larsen.dvm

Country vet for over 40 years in Sweet Home Oregon. I graduated from Colorado State University in 1975. I practiced in Enumclaw Washington for a year and a half before moving to Sweet Home to start a practice.

9 thoughts on “The Ugly Rash

  1. You are right, when one approach doesn’t work, try something new, a good rule of thumb. Good old Bag Balm! It’s too bad the best of the old ways don’t seem to come along with the best of the new. There is much to be learned from how and why people did things, including how to be a good observer. I don’t know how one teaches that to medical, dental or veterinary students. You really need to be a guest lecturer. You have a lot of insight.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My oldest son had a diaper rash like that, I tried every kind of cream/ointment they make although I can’t remember if bag balm was on that list…turns out it was a yeast rash and they are incredibly painful. His doctor ended up prescribing some sort of antifungal cream if I remember right and that finally did the trick. It was a long few weeks though before we figured it out

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Another enjoyable post. If I may add….I can’t tell you the amount of times i’ve said to hooman docs…My dogs dogtor’s have helped me more times than I can count. I always get a strange look from them. Needless to say, I’m not one of their favorite patients. My Vet’s in the past always used Common Sense…wow, you don’t see that much anymore..


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