Eczema is a common non-contagious inflammatory skin condition that has numerous possible causes and no known cure. It’s an atopic condition, which is a form of allergy in which a hypersensitivity reaction may occur in a part of the body not in contact with the allergen.
What does eczema in babies look like?
Eczema in babies appears as a red skin rash that’s dry. It may be scaly and when scratched, can weep and become infected. Eczema often appears on the cheek first, then can spread to the forehead and the backs of arms and legs, and eventually spread to the rest of the body. Babies often start to get eczema from 2 months old. The symptoms are patches of red, dry and itchy skin on the face or behind the ears, and in the creases of the neck, knees and elbows. In Asian, Indian and black African children, eczema may not affect creases but may affect other areas.
What Are the Triggers of Eczema Symptoms?
Eczema usually isn’t a persistent condition, but rather one marked by long symptom-free periods followed by flare-ups.
Various environmental factors may cause the immune system to respond as if the body has encountered a harmful substance, resulting in inflammation and worsening eczema symptoms.
• Pet dander, pollen, mold, and dust mites
• Allergenic foods (such as peanuts, soy, and eggs)
• Clothing made of wool or synthetic fibers
• Cigarette smoke
• Scented products, such as laundry detergents, perfume, and air fresheners, especially ones that contain alcohol
• Excessive heat or dryness
• Dry winter air with little moisture
• Skin infections
• Emotional stress
• Additionally, saliva from drooling can irritate your baby’s cheeks, chin, and neck.
How can I treat my baby’s eczema?
Taking good care of your baby’s skin is the first step to managing infant eczema, and can help to alleviate symptoms, especially when the condition is mild.
There’s no cure for baby eczema, but the condition usually becomes less severe over time.
Treatment focuses on managing skin dryness to prevent flare-ups and on reducing skin inflammation.
Doctors recommend the following strategies to parents whose babies have eczema:
- Avoid giving your baby long hot baths (use cool or lukewarm water instead) or rubbing your baby’s skin too much, especially with rough washcloths, loofahs, or towels.
- Moisturize your baby’s skin frequently with fragrance- and dye-free ointments, creams, and lotions, especially right after a bath. Use Baby & Kids Epizone A Cream and Baby & Kids Epizone E Ointment, by applying a thick layer, and alternating after baths. Use Baby & Kids Epizone E as a soap substitute to prevent skin from further dryness.
- Dress your baby in soft cotton clothing that “breathes.”
- Avoid using scented products.
- Keep your baby’s fingernails short to prevent scratching, which can damage the skin and lead to further inflammation and infections.
- Remove irritants and known allergens from the household as much as possible.
- Keep your baby cool to avoid excessive sweating, such as by using cool compresses (a wet, cool washcloth), especially on irritated areas.
How can I help my baby’s eczema at home?
One of the keys to treating infant eczema is preventing your baby or young child from scratching. Scratching can make the rash worse, lead to infection and cause the irritated skin to get thicker and more leathery.
Make sure your baby’s nails are trimmed often, and take the edge off them with a file if you can. Some parents also slip ‘scratch mittens’ onto their little ones’ hands. Others try long socks, tucked in under a long-sleeved top, so they’re harder for the baby to remove.
Other things you can do to treat your baby’s eczema at home include:
- Bathe your baby for no more than ten minutes in lukewarm water. Water that’s too warm can strip skin of its natural, protective oils.
- Use mild, unscented body and laundry soaps. Perfumed, deodorant and antibacterial soaps can be rough on a baby’s sensitive skin.
- Use soap only in areas that particularly need it, such as the genitals, and hands and feet. Simply rinse off the rest of the baby’s body with water.
- Pat your baby’s skin dry; don’t rub it.
- Apply an emollient immediately after bathing, while your baby’s skin is still wet.
- Oatmeal soaking products, or other products, added to the bathtub may make your little one’s skin less itchy. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about these.
- To minimise the irritation of clothing rubbing on the skin, dress your baby in loose clothes made of cotton. Always wash new clothes before putting them on your baby.
- Avoid putting on too many blankets or overdressing your little one. This can make a baby hot and sweaty, triggering an eczema flare-up.
When should I seek medical advice about baby eczema?
Don’t just assume your baby has eczema – get a medical diagnosis first. This not only eases your mind, it can help you treat your baby’s eczema more effectively.
Once you know infant eczema is what you’re dealing with, keep an eye on your baby’s skin and seek medical advice. Your doctor may also recommend other eczema treatments for your child, including:
- Topical corticosteroids
- Antibiotic, antiviral, or antifungal drugs for skin infections
- Oral medications that suppress the immune system
- Topical calcineurin inhibitors, which are nonsteroidal medications that control inflammation