Often known as the itch that rashes rather than the rash that itches baby eczema is a long-term skin condition but one that thankfully most children will grow out of by the time they reach their teens. For some babies though it can be a serious problem and a daily battle to keep it under control and ease the symptoms.
is baby eczema different?
Baby eczema looks and acts differently than in older children and adults. It’s important to know what to look for as your baby grows, as the location and appearance will change. From birth and for the first six months eczema usually appears on the face, cheeks, chin, forehead, and scalp, looking red and weepy.
My eczema baby looked like he had permanently rosy cheeks. Though I can assure you when he had flare-ups there was nothing rosy about it! Eczema can also spread to other areas of the body, but not usually around the nappy, where moisture protects the skin.
From six months until their first birthday eczema often appears on little elbows and knees. These are places that are easy to scratch or rub as they’re crawling. Dressing them in long sleeved tops and long trousers can help minimise the rubbing. As you know stopping them moving isn’t an option!
how do you deal with baby eczema?
Although bay eczema can't be cured (yet), there are a few ways to soothe and manage it.
• Track down the eczema triggers and find ways to avoid, or minimise exposure to them. Triggers can be detergents, certain foods, heat, or even your pets • Use unperfumed moisturisers and use emollients regularly (at least three times a day) and generously to keep skin moist and supple. Apply in downward strokes after bathing • Continue to use emollients even when eczema has improved as this will help prevent flare-ups • Keep skin clean and undamaged to avoid infections • Keep your baby's nails short and clean. Even those teeny tiny nails can cause quite a scratch! Try using scratch mitts to prevent any damage especially at night • Dressing your little one in loose cotton clothing and keep bedding light and layered. This may help, as being too warm can make eczema worse • Keep a food diary as some foods can aggravate eczema. Don't change your child's diet drastically without talking to your doctor though!
When the itch is inevitably scratched eczema can be complicated by infections. This can cause it to bleed, weep fluid or crust over, all of which are incredibly sore. You will need antibiotics, so a trip to your GP will be needed.
what baby eczema treatments are available?
If your baby’s eczema is severe, they may need steroid cream or ointments from time to time. These are safe as long as they’re used as directed by your GP or pharmacist. Oral antihistamines can sometimes be prescribed if your baby's eczema is very itchy and disturbing their sleep but again, seek your doctor's advice.
Severe cases of baby eczema can be helped using dry bandages and wet wrapping. This is where bandages are soaked in emollient or steroid cream and then dry bandages are wrapped on top which helps the treatments to soak into the skin.
If you’ve tried everything and still your baby’s eczema isn't responding to treatment, they may need to be referred to a specialist dermatologist for other treatments.
helping to break the itch-scratch cycle
Eczema can be extremely distressing for both you and your baby because they find it very difficult not to scratch, which can lead to infections.
• A cold compress (or even a simple ice cube) can often be effective at stopping the itch. Why not try keeping a gel pack in the freezer – these come in handy for the inevitable bumps and bruises too • Try lightly tapping the itch with your finger, the vibration interferes with the nerve signals responsible for the itch
Sometimes though, the itch just won’t go away! This is when distraction can be really effective, especially if it involves both hands. Find toys and games to keep their hands busy and their mind concentrated – construction toys, or shape sorters for younger children are great.
you’re not alone – find support
Although it’s only your baby who’s itching, eczema can affect the entire family! Support groups are an incredible resource to help deal with daily eczema routines. The National Eczema Society has a support group network around the country and by meeting others in the same situation you’ll realise you are not alone!