Atopic dermatitis – eczema – is a common medical condition in which the skin becomes itchy, red, inflamed and irritated. For the millions of people of all ages who suffer from eczema, the symptoms can disappear for months, maybe years, then can “flare up” often without warning.
While painful and often unsightly, eczema is not contagious nor is it considered dangerous to the patient or anyone around him. However, for babies and children who develop eczema, life can be pretty uncomfortable. If your baby is diagnosed with eczema, you will want to know what caused it (usually translated to whether you are doing something wrong), how to treat it and, of course, will your baby outgrow it. Here are some answers to your questions about your baby and eczema.
Eczema appears as red, dry patches on the skin. In babies, it is more likely to appear on the cheeks, arms, and legs. The patches are generally itchy and scaly. If scratched frequently, the patches can become further inflamed and begin to bleed. If not treated, the skin can become cracked and very painful.
There are a variety of causes for eczema in babies including
- Yes, eczema does run in families but it doesn’t guarantee your child is at risk.
- Skin barrier issues can also cause eczema. Some skin barriers make moisture inaccessible to inner layers of the skin or give too much access to germs to get in.
- Ceramides are fatty tissues that help maintain healthy levels of moisture in the skin. If your body produces less, your skin may become drier and at higher risk of getting eczema.
- Dry homes and lack of humidity can cause eczema. Likewise, many people, especially children get seasonal eczema, especially in the dry winter months.
Can My Baby Grow Out of It?
One of the most common questions parents have for pediatricians is whether their baby will outgrow their eczema. If you are wondering the same thing, rest assured. Most babies who develop eczema in the first few months of life outgrow it by the time they begin school at age 4 or 5. However, a small percentage of babies who develop eczema will not outgrow it. Unfortunately, there is no way to confirm whether a baby will or will not outgrow eczema in a few years but the chances of the condition staying increase if the condition runs in the family.
If your baby has eczema, it’s essential to take precautions to prevent the skin from being further irritated. Here are some things you can do to manage your baby’s eczema.
- Use a Humidifier – Eczema symptoms can get worse when the skin becomes drier than it already is. Using a humidifier (particularly in dry weather or in the winter) can reduce dry skin.
- Be Wary of Irritants – Wool clothing, strong detergents, perfumes, and chemicals all can irritate the skin, cause eczema or making it worse. Be cautious about what kind of clothing you dress your baby in. Loose-fitting cotton clothes are the best way to go. Similarly, be attentive to the kinds of the shampoos, soaps, and lotions you apply on your baby. Become a “label reader” to avoid harsh chemicals that dry out or irritate the skin.
- Stay Out of the Heat – A hot summer day is great for a picnic or day at the beach but can make eczema significantly worse for your baby. Heat (and subsequent sweating) can irritate eczema patches, making them itchy and inflamed. Avoid heat as much as possible to keep your baby comfortable.
- Use Moisturizers – Low moisture in the skin makes eczema symptoms worse. Using a quality moisturizer with ceramides can help restore moisture in your baby’s skin. Be sure to choose a fragrance-free and natural moisturizer.
If you believe your baby may have eczema, your pediatrician will be able to provide a diagnosis and recommend treatment options to keep your baby healthy, happy, and comfortable.
Your child’s health is your top priority, and it should also be the top priority for his or her doctor. Children’s Health Care in Newburyport and Haverhill are committed to children’s physical, mental, and emotional health and wellbeing and would love to be a part of your child’s circle of care. Call 978-465-7121 or 978-388-9880 to make an appointment at the Newburyport offices. Call 978-373-5667 to make an appointment at the Haverhill office.