By Eczema Association
Eczema, or dermatitis as it is sometimes called, is a disorder which results in dry, inflamed and sometimes weeping or infected skin. It can cause redness and intense itching. The most common form is Atopic. Although it can look unpleasant, eczema is not contagious.
The first step in effective treatment of eczema is a correct diagnosis from a Doctor. It may be necessary to be referred to a specialist. The most common age for babies to develop eczema is between two and six months of age. Most babies are virtually clear of the condition by the time they reach 3 years old.
Baby eczema symptoms
Eczema is most likely to affect a baby's facial area covering the cheeks and forehead. At this stage it may appear red and weep fluid. Baby’s nappy areas tend to be moister which prevents them from drying out and being effecting by the condition.
As your baby begins crawling they might develop eczema on the patches of skin that rub on floor as they toddle about. It's important to be careful about letting those sore patches of skin become irritated when your baby is crawling as the skin could become infected if continuously broken.
Treatment tips for babies with Eczema:
Don’t panic – most eczema flares can be managed quite effectively and getting upset will flow through to the baby – it is not your fault.
Use sensitive washing powder for the whole family.
Keep baby’s nails short to stop damage to the skin, or cover the baby’s hands with cotton mitts.
Use cotton or bamboo sheets in cots as well as cotton or bamboo covered products for prams, carriers and car seats.
Bathe babies daily in a bath of tepid to warm water and always add a hypoallergenic oil or soap free wash. Never use soap based products or bubble bath which dries the skin.
After bathing, pat the skin with a soft towel leaving it slightly damp. Apply any prescribed steroid creams or ointments, allow time for the medication to be absorbed (about 10 minutes) and then gently apply the moisturizer.
Steroid creams and ointments prescribed for babies are usually of a very weak formulation (1% hydrocortisone) and can reduce itchiness and speed up healing - they are extremely useful in controlling a flare-up and safe to use.
Moisturizing the skin is very important, this keeps it supple and less likely to crack and also helps relieve itching. Always wash your hands before applying creams or ointments.
Loose cotton or bamboo clothing helps to avoid skin irritation. Dress babies in layers so they do not overheat.
Baby will sleep better in a well-ventilated bedroom with minimal heating – if you must have heating on, place 1-2 containers of water in the room to add some moisture.
Try not to introduce any solids until 4 months. Then, hold off giving foods that commonly cause allergies, (ie cow’s milk, wheat, eggs, corn, chocolate, peanuts, fish, citrus, etc).
Introduce foods one at a time as a sort of “test”, watching out for an allergic reaction. Give each food for at least a week, before introducing others.
Introduce a food in this way: Give a teaspoon on the first day, two teaspoons on the second day, and go on adding another teaspoon each day until a complete serving is given. (If you suspect that your child may be sensitised to the food, go more slowly.) If your baby rejects any food, do not persist in offering it, or disguise its taste.
While introducing a food, watch carefully for allergic symptoms which can include colic, unsettled behaviour, altered bowel habit, vomiting or regurgitation of feeds, worsening of eczema, excessive mucus etc. (Allow for the effects of other things such as virus infections or reactions to airborne allergens such as dust mite.)
If no symptoms show up during the introduction of the food, then it can be included in the diet.
If symptoms appear, stop the food, wait a week, begin a new food. If in doubt, try the food again.
Find out more about Eczema Association at www.eczema.org.au
Note: The views and advice expressed on this blog post are those of the author and are not representative of the Pregnancy Babies & Children's Expo.