For a mother, there is nothing worse than finding something is wrong with your infant. There is an automatic response of trying to figure out what she did wrong. Well, most times it is nothing the mother has done. Such is the case with Infantile Eczema.
Baby eczema can look a little scary when the red, crusty, almost blistery-looking patches show up on a baby’s skin, often during their first year of birth. However, even though it “is my baby,” it is very treatable, and the good news is that most infants outgrow it by the age of three or four years old.
Infantile, or Baby, eczema (also known as atopic dermatitis) appears as patches of red, leathery, sometimes blistery-looking skin. The area is usually always tender, itchy, dry and rough. While it may appear just about anywhere on a baby’s body, it most often occurs on cheeks and at the joints of the arms and legs.
Children who suffer from infantile eczema tend to have dry skin. They also have a high sensitivity to itching together with an increased risk of developing other atopic illnesses such as asthma, hay fever and allergies.
The cause of eczema is still a mystery, but for three quarters of sufferers of infantile eczema, asthma, hay fever and allergies run in the family. Some experts think these kids may be genetically predisposed to get eczema.
Itching, which is sometimes intense, almost always occurs. Itching may start even before the rash appears. Eczema is sometimes referred to as the “itch that rashes” because the itching starts, and then the rash appears. Because of the itching, the child might seem upset or irritable, particularly at night.
Eczema is an immune system reaction that can be triggered by diet, soaps, creams, allergies and detergents, and might worsen with stress, heat and sweat.
The triggers for eczema are most times difficult to pinpoint because what trigger one baby’s problems might not affect another’s flare-up. Here are a few factors that do trigger flare-ups:
Dry Skin: This can be caused by low humidity, especially during the winter months, when homes are well heated and the air is dry. Dry skin can make eczema itchy.
Irritants: Scratchy wool clothes, perfumes, body soaps and laundry soaps can all trigger a baby’s eczema flares.
Stress: Children with baby eczema might react to stress by flushing, which leads to flare-ups.
Heat and sweat: Both heat and sweat can make the itch worse. Be aware of sudden temperature room changes.
Allergens: There’s still debate as to whether food allergies in children trigger eczema. Some experts believe that removing cow’s milk, peanuts, eggs and citrus fruits might help to control the symptoms.
Colds or the flu.
Exposure to too much water: I.e, taking too many baths or showers.
A few other common irritants: Animal dander, tobacco smoke, dust, mold and pollen.
What can you do to help?
The goal of treatment is to avoid the triggers that start the rash and to keep the skin as moisturized as possible to soothe the itching and inflammation.
• Make sure your child wears cotton clothes – not woolen or synthetic items that will cause sweating and/or irritation.
• Wash clothes in perfume-free soap. If your water is hard, add household vinegar when rinsing.
• Apply plenty of moisturizers several times a day. In the summer, this should be a relatively thin lotion, whereas in the winter, a thick cream should be used. Use non-soap based cleansers such as aqueous creams when washing the skin.
• Use warm water with mild soaps or non-soap cleansers when bathing your child. Avoid scented soaps.
• Use oatmeal-soaking products in the bath to help control the itching.
• Avoid excessive scrubbing and toweling after bathing. Instead, gently pat the skin dry.
• Apply moisturizing ointments, lotions, or creams to the skin regularly. Even if your child is using a corticosteroid cream prescribed by the doctor, apply moisturizers or lotions frequently (ideally, two to three times a day). Avoid alcohol-containing lotions and moisturizers.
• Keep fingernails short to minimize any skin damage caused by scratching.
• Have your child drink plenty of water, which adds moisture to the skin.
• One last treatment: Bleach baths. Think swimming pools – it’s the same thing. A study published in the May 2009 issue of Pediatrics tested treatments on children with severe eczema. The kids ranged in age from six months to 17 years.
Researchers found that soaking for five to ten minutes twice a week in a diluted bleach bath was five times more effective at treating eczema than plain water (used by the placebo group). Amy Paller, senior author of the study, chair of the department of dermatology and professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, says to use two teaspoons of bleach per gallon of bathwater (or 1/2 cup per full tub) at least twice a week, taking these precautions: 1) Make sure your child doesn’t drink the water; and 2) Disperse the bleach in the water before putting your child in the tub. (Don’t allow undiluted bleach to get on their skin)
Nashville pediatrician Smith agrees. “It’s safe and easy to do,” he says. “It’s basically like a freshly chlorinated swimming pool, which serves to kill germs in the pool. Smith tells parents to use 1/3 to 1/2 cup for a full tub or one teaspoon per gallon. Follow up with a non-scented, natural moisturizer.
Sources: www.babycenter.com; www.webmd.com; www.livestrong.com; www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov; www.kidshealth.com