What's Causing My Toddler's Itchy Anus?

Diagnosis and Treatment

Female toddler (15-18 months) crawling on grass
Stephanie Rausser/The Image Bank/Getty Images

If your child keeps scratching her bottom, there are a few different causes to explore. You're right to check to make sure she's thoroughly wiping since this is one of the most common reasons for anal itching in young children, especially those who are just learning to use the potty.

Other things to look for include:

  • Pinworms
  • Chafing from too-tight clothing
  • Reaction to detergents
  • Diarrhea
  • Yeast infections
  • Irritation caused by spicy foods or citrus (especially orange juice)
  • Perianal strep infection

When to See the Doctor

If much of the itching occurs at night and keeps her awake, a pinworm infestation is likely the cause.  If she has just started wetting the bed, that could also be due to pinworms irritating the urethra.  Pinworms, also known as Enterobius vermicularis, very commonly cause infections in kids, especially those in daycare. You should seek pediatric care if your child presents a pinworm infection. Your doctor may recommend pyrantel pamoate treatment. The itching from pinworm can continue for a week after treatment.

In addition, if you suspect a yeast infection, contact your physician for treatment options. A yeast infection rash may be in the skin folds of the groin area. It is bold red with a slightly-raised border and may have satellite spots of inflamed areas. You can suspect it if you have treated a diaper rash for two days without relief.

A perianal strep infection is another possibility, especially if other family members have recently had strep throat. The signs are a bright red rash around the anus with sharply-defined edges. Your child may also have blood-streaked stools and may have a fever. Oral antibiotics are needed and you may also be given topical medications to use in conjunction with them.

Treating Your Toddler's Anal Itching at Home

Try one of these remedies to soothe your child's bottom:

  • Make sure that your child's fingernails are trimmed, so that she will not injure herself when scratching, and clean them daily with a soft nail brush and antibacterial soap.
  • Make sure the area stays clean. Those new to potty training may need some help for a while until they get the hang of wiping properly (front to back) and thoroughly. Invest in some flushable wipes if your child has those hard-to-wipe bowel movements.
  • Apply witch hazel with a cotton ball or pad. You can find this liquid at most drug and discount stores. It's very mild and soothing. This is one of the main ingredients in Tucks pads.
  • Prepare a bath and let your child soak for 15 minutes or so twice daily. You can mix about 1/4 cup of baking soda in a tub of warm water, or you can make a colloidal oatmeal bath.
  • Make sure the area is completely dry after a bath. Moisture provides the ideal environment for yeast growth, which can cause further irritation. To promote dryness, you can also use cornstarch on the area and be sure to change underwear frequently, especially on hot days or during potty training when even small leaks can cause enough moisture to be a problem.
  • If your child consumes a lot of spicy foods or citrus fruit or juices, try eliminating them from the diet for a couple of weeks and see if the situation improves.
  • Try using dye-free, perfume-free soap on your child's undergarments. Make sure you aren't using fabric softener, which can also cause irritation to this sensitive area. If you use scented toilet paper or wipes, try the plain varieties without scents or dyes, as well.
  • If all else fails, there are a variety of anti-itch creams (usually containing hydrocortisone) that can safely be used in the area. These are for external use only and you should consult with your physician about proper usage and dosing, especially in children under age 2. (Your doctor may be able to prescribe a special low-dose cream in this instance.)
View Article Sources
  • Anal Itching in Young Children. American Academy of Pediatrics. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/skin/Pages/Anal-Itching-in-Young-Children.aspx.
  • Diaper Rash. National Institutes of Health. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000964.htm.​
  • Leder K. Weller PF. Enterobiasis (pinworm) and trichuriasis (whipworm). In: UpToDate. Baron EL (Ed). UpToDate. 2017.
  • Perianal Streptococcal Cellulitis. National Institutes of Health. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001346.htm.