Caregiving: Preventing Rashes in the Groin Area

Overview

The groin area needs careful cleaning to prevent rashes and infections. Rashes are most likely to form in moist areas where skin touches skin, such as the folds of the groin and on the chest and stomach. For a larger-sized person, other areas of concern are the folds on the neck, arms, inner elbows, legs, behind the knees, and between the toes. Daily cleaning can help prevent these problems.

If you are helping someone with their daily cleaning, try to be relaxed. Helping someone clean their groin area can be embarrassing for both of you. This may be especially true if you are caring for someone of the opposite sex. If you are calm and don't seem embarrassed, the person may feel more comfortable.

Causes of rashes

Rashes in the groin and anal areas can be caused by several things. A yeast or bacterial infection can cause a rash. So can irritation from problems with bladder or bowel control. Protective underwear also can cause rashes or irritate the skin. Or a person may be allergic to the scents in the material.

People who have certain health problems, such as diabetes, may be at extra risk for infections because of a weakened ability to fight infections.

To help prevent rashes:

  • Change protective underwear as soon as possible after it is soiled or wet.
  • Let the skin air-dry for 5 to 10 minutes before putting on a new pair of briefs. (But keep the person covered to help them feel more comfortable.)
  • Clean the area daily, and check for rashes so that you can treat them as soon as they happen.

How to treat rashes

Treatment at home often helps rashes go away. If the person you are caring for develops a rash in the groin area, here are some things you can do to help treat it:

  • Keep the skin dry.
  • Check the briefs every 3 hours. Change if needed.
  • Gently wash the groin and anal areas with warm water and a soft washcloth. Rinse well and dry completely.
  • Use a blow-dryer on a warm setting to get the area fully dry.
  • If the person has had diarrhea, apply an ointment such as Desitin, Diaparene, A&D Ointment, or zinc oxide.
  • Give more fluids to make the urine less concentrated. (Make sure the person doesn't need to limit fluids for a medical reason.)
  • Call the person's doctor if the rash doesn't get better or if signs of infection develop (such as increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness).

How to clean someone's groin area

Allow the person to do as much of the cleaning as possible. Give the person privacy if they are safe to be alone. In some cases, you will need to do the bathing.

When you are cleaning someone's groin area, explain what you are doing. Let the person know that you're making sure they don't have rashes. And only uncover the area that you're cleaning. This may help the person feel more comfortable.

Wash and dry your hands well before you begin. You don't have to wear gloves, but it might be a good idea if the person has had diarrhea. And it's a good idea to wear a mask if you or the person has an illness that can spread, such as a cold or the flu.

Give the person a washcloth with soap on it for cleaning. Offer another warm, damp washcloth for rinsing. If you are doing the washing, be gentle. Don't rub the skin. Also, don't use moisturizers in these areas where skin touches skin.

To clean the male groin area:

  • Start at the tip of the penis, and wash the tip in a circular motion. From the tip, clean away from the opening of the urethra.
  • Wash the rest of the penis, moving down toward the scrotum. Rinse. Pat dry.
  • If the penis is uncircumcised, gently pull back the foreskin and clean underneath it. Don't scrub the area. Rinse but don't dry. Replace the foreskin.
  • Clean the top and sides of the scrotum. Rinse and pat dry.
  • Ask the person to turn on their side, or help turn them. Clean the bottom of the scrotum and the anal area. Rinse and pat dry.

To clean the female groin area:

  • Separate the labia, and clean gently with the washcloth in one swipe from front to back.
  • Turn the washcloth to use a new part of it, and clean in the same motion until the area is clean. Pat dry.
  • Ask the person to turn on their side, or help turn them. Clean the anal area from front to back. Pat dry.

Special concerns if the person has dementia

A person who has dementia may become confused or may forget how to clean without help. In a calming voice, explain one step at a time what to do. A person who has more advanced dementia will need you to do the cleaning. Explain what you are doing.

In some cases, the person may be upset or try to fight you. Don't force them to clean. Try again at another time. Pick a time when they are most rested and calm.

Credits

Current as of: March 3, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Gayle E. Stauffer, RN - Registered Nurse