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What is Baby Eczema?

January 6, 2024

Baby eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a common skin condition that affects many infants. It is characterised by dry, itchy, and inflamed patches of skin. Dealing with baby eczema can be challenging, but with the right knowledge and care, you can help soothe your little one’s skin and provide relief.

Understanding Baby Eczema

Baby eczema is believed to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. It often occurs in families with a history of allergies or asthma. Common triggers for eczema flare-ups include dry skin, irritants (such as harsh soaps or detergents), allergens (such as pet dander or pollen), and changes in temperature or humidity.

Recognising the Symptoms

baby ezcema on legs

The symptoms of baby eczema can vary from mild to severe and may include dry, red, and itchy patches of skin. These patches can appear on the face, scalp, arms, legs, and other areas of the body. In some cases, the skin may become cracked, oozing, or develop crusts. As a first step speak to your health visitor or GP, they may refer you to a paediatrician or dermatologist for a correct diagnosis.

Gentle Bathing and Moisturising

When bathing your baby with eczema, use lukewarm water and a mild, fragrance-free cleanser. Avoid scrubbing the skin and pat dry gently with a soft towel. Immediately after bathing, apply a hypoallergenic moisturiser to lock in moisture and prevent dryness. Look for products that are specifically formulated for sensitive skin and free from harsh chemicals.

Clothing and Fabrics

Choose soft, breathable fabrics for your baby’s clothing, such as cotton or bamboo. Avoid rough or scratchy materials that can further irritate the skin. Wash new clothes before use to remove any potential irritants or chemicals. Additionally, avoid using fabric softeners or dryer sheets, as they can contain fragrances and chemicals that may trigger eczema flare-ups.

Avoiding Triggers

Identifying and avoiding triggers is crucial in managing baby eczema. You could keep a diary to track potential triggers, such as certain foods, environmental factors, or skincare products. Common triggers include dairy, eggs, nuts, dust mites, pet dander, and pollen. Consult with a paediatrician or dermatologist to determine if any specific allergens should be avoided.

Protecting the Skin

To protect your baby’s skin from irritants and potential allergens, consider using an emollient or ointment. Apply a thin layer to areas prone to eczema flare-ups, such as the cheeks, elbows, and knees. This can help create a protective barrier and prevent moisture loss from the skin, however you may need to try a few different ones before settling on a brand that suits your baby’s skin.

Managing Itchiness

Itchiness is a common symptom of baby eczema and can be distressing for both your baby and you. To help alleviate itchiness, keep your baby’s nails short to prevent scratching. Dress your baby in loose-fitting clothing to minimise friction on the skin. Applying a cold compress or using a gentle, fragrance-free anti-itch cream may also provide temporary relief.

Seek Medical Advice

If your baby’s eczema persists or worsens despite your efforts, it is important to seek medical advice. As a first step speak with your health visitor or GP, you may then be referred to a paediatrician or dermatologist who will make a diagnosis and can provide further guidance and may recommend prescription medications, such as topical corticosteroids or antihistamines, to manage severe eczema symptoms.

There are organisations that can help in providing you with further information and support if you are worried.  A good starting point is the National Eczema Society. Formed in 1975, it is a UK charity for everyone affected by eczema. They provide lots of useful information and advice for families living with eczema, and a nurse-supported Helpline.

Dealing with baby eczema can be challenging, but with proper care and management, you can help soothe your little one’s skin and minimise flare-ups. Understanding the triggers, practicing gentle skincare routines, avoiding irritants, and seeking medical advice when necessary are key steps in managing baby eczema. Remember, every baby is unique, and it may take you some time to find the most effective strategies for your little one. With patience, consistency, and support, you can provide relief and comfort to your baby as they navigate this common skin condition.

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