Eczema is an uncomfortable and irritating skin condition for anyone to suffer from but for babies who can’t easily communicate their frustrations, it can be particularly unpleasant.
This post will outline the symptoms associated with atopic eczema in babies, as well as the more severe atopic dermatitis, and provide some useful hints and tips for treating eczema in babies.
Eczema in infants and babies is not uncommon. NHS Direct estimates that around 20% of children in the UK have atopic eczema, and as many as 80% of those affected develop the condition before the age of five. Eczema can be hereditary, and parents who have suffered from eczema themselves may find it easier to spot the symptoms.
Read on below to find out what you need to look out for.
How to spot the symptoms of eczema in infants
It’s possible for babies to develop eczema patches anywhere on their body, but areas that are frequently affected include the cheeks, behind the ears, on the arms and legs, forehead and scalp.
Eczema can be confused with ‘cradle cap’ because of the areas where it appears, but it’s worth remembering that cradle cap tends to be less red, scaly and tender than eczema.
Where eczema is present you can expect to see hot, itchy, inflamed skin that is red and tender to the touch. This is usually dry but in babies can sometimes be weepy. If blistering or crusting of the skin is noticeable it’s possible that the area has become infected, which will cause more discomfort.
Treating eczema in babies
There are lots of things you can do for your baby to ease the pain and irritation caused by eczema.
Firstly, if the skin shows signs of infection your doctor may prescribe antibiotics, while topical steroids and antihistamine creams can sometimes be prescribed to ease itching and swelling. In extreme cases, GPs may recommend ultraviolet light therapy.
A good bathing routine can also provide comfort for little ones. Try giving your baby a short bath (ten minutes or less) in warm, but not hot, water. Next, pat dry gently and apply an emollient cream or ointment to lock in the moisture from the bath.
Using water that is too warm can strip the skin of natural oils, so be very mindful of temperature and avoid use of fragranced bubble bath and cleansers, or sponges or loofahs that could further dry out or irritate the skin. Choose a fragrance free moisturiser for regular use to avoid irritation of the area.
Tips for preventing baby eczema
Temperature, allergens and second-hand smoke are all main factors that can contribute to eczema flare ups, so be mindful of all of these for your baby.
Dry skin can be caused by rooms with low humidity, while being too hot can cause babies to sweat, which can in turn cause irritations.
Keeping skin well-moisturised, ensuring babies are not too warm under blankets and monitoring room temperature with a thermometer are all sensible steps to help tackle baby eczema. Pet hair and dust mites can also exacerbate symptoms – could there be any of these common allergens present in your home?
When babies dribble this can irritate the skin, and this is particularly noticeable during teething when some babies may experience eczema or other rashes as a result. Take a look at our teething range for teething remedies and treatments.
It’s only natural that your baby will try and scratch their skin that is irritated by eczema, so to minimise the risk of further irritation or infection keep their nails neatly trimmed and consider dressing them in scratch mittens and long socks.
Those who suffer from eczema tend to develop the condition while they are young, but the good news is that many babies do grow out of eczema before they reach school age.