How to care for your Baby’s Eczema: When you think of newborn baby skin, soft and smooth is what comes to mind. But for the 10% to 20% of infants in Canada who have eczema, parents may be alarmed when dry and scaly patches appear on their baby’s skin. Eczema (also called atopic dermatitis) is a common skin condition in children under five, appearing on cheeks, knees, elbows and diaper area. Baby’s eczema can be mild, with a small area of your baby’s body affected, to severe, characterized by extreme itching, rashes and weeping red blisters. Fortunately, baby eczema is easily treated and most children outgrow it.
What causes baby eczema?
There is no definitive cause of baby eczema, though researchers continue to investigate the link between allergies, asthma, genetics and what causes the condition. Baby eczema isn’t contagious so there is no fear that your baby “caught” it. Without a known single cause, parents may find themselves frustrated when trying to determine what triggers a flare up.
How is baby eczema diagnosed?
Although baby eczema is common and can be treated at home, it is important that your pediatrician or family doctor examine your child so that other skin infant conditions, such as cradle cap, roseola or psoriasis, can be ruled out. Depending on the severity of your baby’s eczema, you may be referred to a dermatologist.
What is the best way to treat baby eczema?
Keeping your baby’s skin moisturized and protecting it from drying out is the best way to treat eczema. Gently rub a fragrance-free lotion or cream on your infant’s skin, taking care to not break any blisters. For dry skin that has chapped or cracked, use a fragrance-free barrier cream on your baby’s eczema. The barrier cream protects sensitive skin by blocking out water and other chemical irritants
When bathing your baby, use warm water and avoid washing him with scented soaps and shampoos. If your baby enjoys playing at bath time, use soap at the end his bath so he doesn’t sit in soapy water, which irritates eczema. Rinse all soaps and shampoos completely from his skin, pat him dry and then reapply the fragrance-free lotion.
Tips for choosing soaps and lotions
Always choose scent-free soaps and lotions and read the ingredients on the label. Products labelled “natural” may contain plant-based fragrances that irritate baby eczema. Buy soaps and lotions approved by dermatologists or made specifically for treating eczema. Ask a doctor or pediatrician for recommendations.
Will my baby need a steroid cream or ointment to treat his eczema?
Your doctor may prescribe a topical steroid cream, ointment or an oil depending on the age of your baby, where the rash is located and the severity of his eczema. Follow the medication instructions carefully. Usually only a thin layer of the medication needs to be applied, which is quickly absorbed into his skin.
Will my baby develop scars from her eczema?
It is difficult to predict if scarring will occur, but by keeping her skin moisturized and easing the itch of eczema, your baby will not scratch as much. It is skin damage from scratching that leads to scarring. It is important to keep broken blisters clean and free from infection, which is where scars may also occur.
Keep your baby’s fingernails trimmed short or cover her hands with mittens. During an eczema flare up, your baby’s skin will be extremely itchy, which they can’t help but scratch! You can prevent further damage or breaking blisters if you keep your baby’s nails short.
Advice and support for parents
Many parents find their baby’s chronic eczema a challenge as there are no known causes or cures. But did you know parents of babies with eczema are eager to share their experience and knowledge with other families? Twitter, Facebook and website community forums are good places to “meet” other moms and dads, ask questions and share your own tips for soothing your baby’s irritated skin. It’s helpful to know that you are not alone!