WHAT IS BABY ECZEMA?
Eczema is a skin condition that usually appears as an itchy, red patch on the hands, feet, backs of elbows and around knees, ankles and wrists. It also may affect a baby’s cheeks, chin, chest, forehead or scalp. Eczema can appear in other areas too, though not usually the diaper area where moisture acts as a barrier. Dry skin, sweating, pet dander or even dust can cause a flare-up of your child’s eczema. Scratching also can make eczema worse, causing redness, swelling and other symptoms like itching.
Though its cause isn’t completely understood, up to 10 percent of babies and toddlers have eczema. If you have a family history of eczema, asthma or hay fever, your baby may be more likely to develop it. Adult eczema may not look the same on a child, which is why identifying symptoms and triggers is important to protect your baby’s skin. Though there is no cure, daily skin care including regular bathing and moisturising is essential to care for your baby’s eczema.
BABY ECZEMA TRIGGERS
Many soaps, disinfectants and fragrances can make eczema worse for baby’s skin. Common products that may cause a flare-up include: detergents and dryer sheets; bubble bath and some shampoos; disinfectants like chlorine; dyes, and coarse fabrics like wool. Always wash new clothes before they are worn, use dye-free and fragrance-free detergents, and choose sunscreen made for sensitive skin.
Typical allergens like dust mites, pet dander, pollen and mold can cause itchy, inflamed skin. Make your home an allergy-free zone by vacuuming and wet-dusting frequently, keeping soft toys (which trap dust) to a minimum and washing them often, and grooming pets regularly.
Extremes in temperature and humidity may trigger an eczema flare-up. Environmental triggers include very hot or very cold temperatures, high or low humidity, cigarette smoke and pollution. Keep the baby’s bedroom between 68 and 72° F and maintain even humidity in your home.
It’s relatively rare in infants, but one in 10 children with eczema experience symptoms caused by food allergies. In general, children under age 5 with severe eczema also may have a food allergy, most commonly triggered by milk, eggs, nuts, seeds or wheat.
While stress doesn’t cause eczema, symptoms may worsen as the result of tension, anger or frustration. If your child is having problems at daycare, you may notice more eczema flare-ups than usual. Stress also can cause habit scratching, which perpetuates the itch-scratch cycle. In that case, keep your child’s fingernails short and consider cotton gloves or mittens if your child tends to scratch while sleeping.
ECZEMA ITCH-SCRATCH CYCLE
Unfortunately, the more babies scratch, the more likely they are to perpetuate or even worsen the itching, redness, and swelling. This is referred to as the “itch-scratch” cycle and it can be very painful. More often than not, eczema will go away as your baby grows older. Treatment at the onset can stop eczema in its tracks, which is why daily skin care like bathing and moisturising is essential.
An effective and scientifically proven skin care routine can strengthen the skin’s moisture barrier and help you prevent the recurrence of itchy, dry, irritated and uncomfortable skin.
ECZEMA CARE: BATHING AND MOISTURISING
It can be very challenging to care for a baby who is uncomfortable because of an eczema flare-up. So, following a daily skincare routine of bathing and moisturising is key to keeping baby’s sensitive or eczema-prone skin under control. Mild cleansing can help the skin absorb topical therapies, which keeps the barrier intact and helps prevent flare-ups. Moisturisers trap water in the skin, which makes it more flexible and less likely to crack. It’s important to moisturise regularly, even when your child does not have a flare-up because dry skin is a frequent cause of eczema.
- Use lukewarm water to wash your child.
- Use a mild, non-drying, fragrance-free cleanser
- Gently pat skin dry — don't rub.
- Avoid body sponges and washcloths.
- Apply moisturiser to damp skin (within 3 minutes after the bath).
- Apply prescribed medications first and then liberally apply moisturiser.