What is Eczema?
Babies are prone to skin rashes that consist of red, crusty patches on their cheeks and bodies. In older children, these allergies are often found on the insides of the elbows, the backs of the knees, the wrists, and the ankles. This kind of typical skin concern that occurs in babies and young infants is known as eczema or atopic dermatitis. It tends to show up before the age of 5 and appears like dry, thickened, scaly skin. Sometimes it may also appear as tiny red bumps that ooze. If scratched, they tend to become infected. As eczema is a chronic skin problem, it can come and go. Like there are a few home remedies for eczema in adults, eczema in children can be helped with some home remedies as well. But if a child’s eczema is not improving, always consult a pediatric dermatologist.
How Common is Eczema in Children?
Eczema is one of the most common skin problems and about 20% of babies and young infants experience it. A majority of the patients witness symptoms of eczema before they’re 1 year old, and 9 out of 10 times they witness the symptoms before they’re 5. By the age of 4, most children outgrow eczema. A few children may outgrow eczema once they’re young adults but their skin may continue to remain dry and sensitive. It’s difficult to predict exactly when a kid will outgrow their eczema, but usually, the condition becomes less severe with age.
What Causes Eczema in Child?
What causes eczema in babies? The causes behind infant eczema are still a subject of ongoing research, but it is believed, the tendency to have eczema is often inherited. In case a close family member has had eczema, asthma, or allergies, your child is more likely to have it as well. An allergic reaction to a substance cannot alone trigger baby eczema, rather allergens or irritants in the atmosphere (such as pet dander, pollen, dust or cigarette smoke) can be one of its causes. It is also observed that at times this can occur by irritants present in your child’s food habits or in your diet if your child is breastfeeding. Factors like heat, saliva (from drooling), dry skin, harsh fabric, change in temperature, stress and the use of chemicals in some soaps, fragrances, lotions, and detergents can set off the flare-up of eczema in children.
Eczema Signs and Symptoms
Since it is a chronic skin problem, the symptoms of eczema in babies can come and go. Sometimes the symptoms get worse or flare up (called exacerbations) and at other times the skin condition may improve or completely heal (called remissions). Eczema isn’t contagious but can be bothersome. The intensely itchy sensation can cause serious discomfort. The symptoms of infant eczema vary in children. Common symptoms include dry, red, itchy skin and rashes. These rashes can be oozing or can be incredibly dry. Rashes often appear on the face and scalp in case of babies. For younger children, rashes can emerge in the folds of the elbows and knees. In teenagers and young adults, rashes are often seen on the hands and feet.
Check these home remedies for skin allergies and rashes here.
How to Treat Eczema?
In infants under 2 months of age, seborrhoea is often confused with eczema. Therefore, it is advised to consult a doctor before opting for any medication or home remedy, especially in the case of babies. The treatment of baby eczema through medication can happen in two ways:
- Applied to the skin (topical)—Offered as creams or ointments.
- Taken by mouth (oral)—Offered in pill or liquid form.
- For mild baby eczema treatment, you may simply need an over-the-counter moisturizer. A gentle moisturizer acts as the first line of preventive measure against baby eczema. Applying it all over your baby’s body after a bath will soothe rough spots and prevent the formation of dry patches on the skin.
- If your baby has eczema-prone skin, it is essential to follow a suitable everyday skincare routine and provide enough hydration. Some babies are allergic to chemicals present in baby lotions and cleansers. Parents should avoid such products and understand how to choose safer milder skin and bath products for babies. Select fragrance-free products and stay away from harsh soaps.
- For babies who tend to suffer from severe eczema, generally a low-to-medium-strength topical steroid ointment or cream is recommended by pediatric dermatologists. These creams can be used once to twice daily as it helps with the swelling and heals the skin. It is important to check with your doctor if the cream is effectively working.
- Babies with inflamed skin are more prone to infection and in extreme cases, very diluted bleach baths can be suggested. Adding 1 tablespoon of bleach in a full baby tub of water, twice a week during a bath can decrease bacteria on the skin and prevent infections. Check with your doctor about this too.
- For kids who suffer from eczema now and then, it is advised to stick to a bathing and moisturizing custom. Never use hot water for bathing as it can dry out the skin, rather use lukewarm water. Try to opt for a mild soap or non-soap cleanser as the presence of chemicals in them is limited. Use a soft towel or washcloth to get off the excess water by putting it on your skin, rather than vigorously rubbing it. Moisturizers or emollients are available for children of all ages and they are safe to use. These creams seal in the skin’s natural moisture and prevent dryness.
- Children are more prone to scratching and rubbing their skin, especially during sleep. This can irritate or inflame the skin and hence, it is necessary to ensure that your child’s nails are cut short.
- Eczema is triggered in kids mostly due to weather conditions, environmental irritants and food allergies. Hence, try to identify and minimize any stressors that may prompt eczema. Rapid changes in temperature and seasonal allergies cannot be controlled but make sure to avoid food items that can cause reactions.
- Applying cool compresses to the affected skin several times a day followed by proper prescribed oral pills can provide relief if your child is going through extreme eczema.
- Furthermore, it is always suggested to visit a doctor from time to time if signs of eczema show up now and then as it will prevent the situation from getting out of hand.
Tips & Home Remedies
It is believed that the best way to take care of the extra-sensitive baby skin is by following organic procedures and home remedies. But this has to be done carefully too as some natural ingredients can sometimes worsen the rashes too. Nonetheless, adding a few simple tips to your baby’s everyday routine can help to relieve infant eczema to a certain level.
- Make sure your baby’s skin is always moisturized. Coconut oil acts as a natural moisturizer.
- After a bath, use gentle fabric to pat the skin dry instead of rubbing it.
- Always try to apply moisturizer to the damp skin.
- Wear soft fabrics such as 100% cotton clothing. Avoid wool and other scratchy materials as they can irritate sensitive skin.
- Mild, fragrance-free body cleansers should be used.
- Taking short baths with room temperature water is advised.
- Choose a mild laundry detergent for babies, that does not contain dyes or perfumes.
- Avoid using fabric softener in the dryer.
- Check about the different oils for baby massage and how to choose one.
- Always keep the skin hydrated and apply a moisturizer at least once a day or more often if required.
- Scratching is off-limits as it can make the rash worse and lead to infection.
- Keep your child’s fingernails short and flat.
- Consult a doctor to check if certain allergens or foods can trigger eczema. If possible, stay away from such triggers.
- Apply cool compresses to soothe flare-ups.
Read on how to naturally clean a home-with-kids.
Food Allergies and Eczema
Baby eczema isn’t a result of any one specific allergy, but in some cases, several allergenic foods can trigger eczema or make it serious. Though not so for all children, the most common associations for such allergies are cow’s milk and eggs, followed by soy, wheat, peanuts, and fish. Getting rid of the suspected food items from your child’s diet, one at a time can help you identify the association and will ensure reducing the chance of eczema. The relation between food and eczema is a topic of constant evolution. Earlier, a study found a connection between a maternal diet rich in vegetable oils, margarine and citrus fruit during the last four weeks of pregnancy and eczema in children by 2 years of age. Few recent studies suggest that infants who are at high risk of developing allergies or eczema may prevent it with the help of prenatal and infant supplementation with probiotics. However, remember that merely about 10 percent of baby eczema cases are primarily triggered by food.
Also read about the use of almond oil for baby massage, it’s benefits and precautions.