How to deal with infant or baby eczema?
Many children in the western world suffer from infantile eczema or atopic dermatitis, a form of eczema (skin inflammation) that won’t stop itching. It is characterised by periods without symptoms followed by further outbreaks of differing severity. Children who suffer from baby eczema tend to have dry skin. They also have a high sensitivity to itching, together with an increased risk of developing other atopic illnesses - asthma, hay fever and allergy. Most children outgrow their infant eczema while others continue to suffer from the disease more or less for the rest of their lives.
Nobody knows what causes the disease, but for three quarters of sufferers infantile eczema, asthma or hay fever run in the family. It is also common for children with the disease to suffer from asthmatic bronchitis, asthma, hay fever or some other kind of allergic illness. The disease usually becomes apparent before the child reaches the age of five, and most frequently appears when the child is between two- and six-months old. Babies with infant eczema develop an itchy red rash on their cheeks. This spreads over the face, down the neck to the nappy region, and may also appear on the arms and legs. Because of the itching, the child may seem upset or irritable, particularly at night. The rash is normally dry, but if the skin is infected with bacteria (impetiginized eczema) the eczema will begin to suppurate (produce pus). This is a danger signal, and you should consult your doctor or a dermatologist if this occurs.
When the child is one-and-a-half to two-years old, the disease will follow a more typical pattern, with the rash appearing behind the knees and in the bends of the arms, wrists, ankles and neck. Among adults, the typical symptoms are a variant of the pattern found in children. The baby eczema, dry on a base of thickened skin, normally appears on the torso and is often infected with skin bacteria. A lot of people who suffer from an inherited tendency to develop allergies also show signs of so-called atopic stigmata: darkness around the eyes and a double furrow beneath them, cracks near the the ear lobes and itchiness when wearing woollen clothes.
Children are unique patients because it may be difficult for them to resist scratching their baby eczema, thereby making the condition worse. Fortunately, for mild to moderate cases, the application of moisturizer on a regular basis can be very helpful. And, in most cases, the infant eczema will disappear as the child ages. In the meantime, avoid as many eczema triggers as possible. Keep your child’s skin moist. After bathing, apply moisturizer within three minutes to retain the moisture in the skin. Avoid sudden temperature changes. Keep your child’s bedroom and play areas free of dust mites (a common trigger). Use mild soaps – both on your child’s skin and on your child’s clothing. Dress your child in breathable, preferably cotton, clothing. Treatment of eczema combines aggressive moisturizing and topical anti-inflammatory medications. A child in eczema flare-up should be bathed daily (twice a day if possible) in lukewarm water (85 degrees). Do not bathe your child in hot, or even very warm water. Hot water causes skin to release histamines that make the skin red and itchy. The bath does not need to be very long. Children with a severe rash may find the water stings or burns. If so, a half a cup of table salt may be added to a full tub of water. Avoid using soap if possible and do not scrub skin with washcloth. If soap is needed, use mild, moisturizing, unscented soap.
Then, immediately after taking the child from the bath, pat gently with a towel but leave the skin damp. Within three minutes, the moisturizer needs to be applied heavily. For serious rash, moisturizing with Aquaphor or Vaseline petroleum jelly is best. For moderate rash, a thick cream, such as Eucerine, will be sufficient. For skin without visible rash, you can use a good quality moisturizing liquid. Avoid products that contain fragrance. Apply anti-inflammatory prescription medication only to areas in active flare-up. (The doctor should give detailed instructions on when and how often to apply the anti-inflammatory). When itching breaks skin, application of antibiotic ointment is a necessary precaution against infection. If infection occurs, prescription oral antibiotic may be necessary.
Children in severe flare-up may benefit from a soaking wrap. Soak cotton cloths in a basin of tepid water mixed with table salt. Cotton diapers work well as wraps. Put down some kind of protective plastic padding in the child’s bed. Have the child sit up in bed and place a moist (not drippy) cloth over the back and shoulders, and then have the child lay down. Take a separate moist cloth and wrap each arm and leg…covering fingers and toes. Cover the whole body. Cover the cloths with plastic padding to avoid quick drying. (Do not put plastic over the child’s face). Cover the child with a blanket. Let the child stay in the wrap for 30 minutes (if child falls asleep, the wrap may stay in place until the child awakes.) Then, remove wraps and apply moisturizer heavily over the entire body.
More information on eczema
What is eczema? - Eczema is a heterogeneous group of different non-infectious skin diseases. Eczema occurs in both children and adults, but usually appears during infancy.
What types of eczema are there? - There are various types of eczema, including atopic eczema (atopic dermatitis), contact dermatitis, varicose eczema, discoid eczema, nummular eczema, stasis dermatitis.
What are the symptoms of eczema? - Symptoms of eczema are itching and redness, and may make the skin dry and flaky. Eczema makes the skin more sensitive.
What causes eczema? - The most common cause of eczema is a general allergic over-sensitivity. Other types of eczema arise as a result of causes within the body.
How does eczema affect people? - In eczema, the main problems occur in the epidermis where the keratinocytes become less tightly held together.
How is eczema diagnosed? - Eczema is usually diagnosed through a physical examination. Further tests may include skin biopsy or patch tests.
What are the treatments for eczema? - Avoidance of the aetiological factors is one important therapeutical approach. Symptomatic treatment includes topical and systemic treatment regimens.
How can eczema be prevented? - Eczema flare-ups can be prevented by avoiding exposure to extreme temperatures, dry air, harsh soaps and bubble baths.
How to deal with infant or baby eczema? - For mild to moderate baby eczema, the application of moisturizer on a regular basis can be very helpful. Avoid as many eczema triggers as possible.
What is atopic eczema and its treatment? - Atopic eczema (atopic dermatitis) is the commonest form of eczema and is closely linked with asthma and hayfever.
What is dyshidrotic eczema? - Dyshidrotic eczema is a form of eczema often seen on the hands and feet where tiny blisters of serum form just below the skin's surface.
What is nummular eczema? - Nummular eczema is a chronic eczema characterised by coin-shaped, sharply demarcated lesions. Nummular eczema is more common in males.
What is hand eczema (hand dermatitis)? - Hand eczema, also called hand dermatitis, is a skin condition in which the hands develop a rash and become red, dry, cracked, and inflamed.
What is varicose eczema? - Varicose eczema is due to increased pressure within the veins in the leg. Varicose eczema affects the lower legs people in their middle to late years.
What's seborrhoeic eczema? - Seborrhoeic eczema is a common skin disease affecting any sebum-(natural oil) producing area of the skin.