Eczema will often appear during the first year of a baby's life - particularly in the skin folds of the arms, neck or legs - but it can also occur first on a baby's forehead, cheeks and scalp before spreading to other parts of the body. This baby eczema can look like dry, thickened and scaly skin or be made up of tiny red bumps that can blister and ooze. The problem can be when it becomes itchy as infection can set in if scratched but baby eczema is not contagious. It is surprisingly common, affecting as many as one in five children and can often be a warning of asthma to follow. As children grow older, eczema can spread to the body and limbs, with the limb creases - backs, wrists, ankle and neck, and the front of the elbows being particularly affected.
Why eczema can appear in babies and young children
Many families find that eczema is inherited from a parent or close family member who suffers from hay fever, eczema, asthma or other allergies.
Although it is not an allergic reaction to a substance, baby eczema can be triggered by certain allergens in your baby's diet or in your diet if your baby is breast fed.
- In many cases the condition may be due to an allergy to certain food groups such as citrus, soybeans, fish, nuts, wheat, eggs, peanuts or milk protein while dust mites, feather pollens and other allergens may be a contributing factor.
- This eczema rash can also be aggravated by heat as well as changes in temperature.
Some babies are susceptible to irritants that come into contact with their skin. These can be chemicals in certain soaps, lotions and detergents. Wool is another irritant.
- Dry skin can be a further trigger.
The secret to eliminating eczema is moisturization
- Don't let your baby's skin become dry. Daily bathing in lukewarm water is helpful if you use a mild soap and shampoo to wash at the end of the session which should not be too long.
- Immediately pat the skin dry without rubbing before applying plenty of natural moisturizer or emollient to keep the moisture in.
- Twice a week add half a cup of bleach to a full standard sized bath for a 5 to 10 minutes soak (if your baby is 6 months or older) as this has been found to be 5 times more effective than plain water in treating eczema. Your child's limbs and torso should be immersed leaving the head and neck above water. Pat dry and apply a heavy slathering of moisturizer.
- A soothing bath with warm chamomile and oatmeal is a good home remedy for children with eczema. Add 4 tablespoons chamomile flowers and half a cup of oatmeal to a "knee-high" stocking, and tie the open end of the stocking with a rubber band before placing under the tap as you fill the bathtub. While your child plays in the bath, the chamomile and oats concoction will help to ease any itching.
- Let your baby's skin breathe by using cool natural fabrics such as cotton for both clothing and bed linen. Avoid wool as this can be scratchy and irritating to the skin.
- Use natural fragrance-free detergents for washing your baby's clothes and bed linen and never use fabric softeners.
- Avoid extreme temperature changes for your child.
Keep the fingernails cut short and put mittens on so that your child cannot scratch the eczema rash. Cool compresses to the area for a few minutes at a time will soothe and discourage scratching too. Babies cannot control the urge to scratch and if they do, this can result in bacterial infections, bleeding and major discomfort. Scratching not only disturbs your baby’s sleep but can worsen the itch and cause further inflammation.
Some good news to tell you
This is to tell you that by the age of 3 years, the number of children with baby eczema is halved and approximately 70% of all children completely outgrow this condition by their teens. In the meantime remember that baby eczema is a condition that is chronic and needs to be managed in the long run, as there are intermittent flare-ups every few weeks.