It’s hard to see your baby struggling with itchy skin—and caring for a young child with eczema can be tough for parents and caregivers too. If your baby has eczema, we recommend seeing your pediatrician or a dermatologist to develop a treatment plan. The good news: simple lifestyle adjustments can go a long way towards managing your baby’s skin.
So what is eczema, exactly? It’s an inflammatory skin condition that affects up to 25% of children and causes dry, itchy patches of skin. Baby eczema typically occurs around ages 3-6 months and can be found on the face, scalp, knees, and elbows. The most common types of eczema in children are atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, dyshidrotic eczema, and seborrheic dermatitis, also known as “cradle cap” in infants.
Because eczema can cause your little one to feel itchy and uncomfortable, it is important for families to be aware of ways they can help their child stay comfortable and manage their symptoms. Below are four tried and true tips that can help you better manage baby eczema.
As we transition to spring and summer, you might notice more frequent eczema flare-ups in your baby. One possible cause: sweat. People with eczema can actually react to their own sweat. When sweat dries, it leaves behind a salty residue, triggering the nerves that cause our skin to itch.
Sweating is natural and can’t be prevented entirely, but there are ways to help your baby beat the heat and stay comfortable as the weather warms. One warm weather eczema management pro tip: dress your little one in loose cotton fabrics. Cotton is great for eczema-prone skin because it’s soft, easy to clean, and allows your baby’s skin to breathe.
It may sound like a no-brainer, but limiting the amount of time your baby spends in the sun and seeking shade when possible can help your child stay cool and avoid an itchy eczema flare. If you live in an area that doesn’t offer much shade, or if sun exposure can’t be avoided, consider investing in a UV-blocking shade for your stroller or a sunhat for your baby to help protect their skin and keep them cool.
Eczema is often referred to as “the itch that rashes.” Itch is a primary symptom of eczema, and resisting the urge to scratch is difficult for people of all ages. But scratching makes eczema worse: it damages the skin barrier, causes additional inflammation, and increases risk of infection. It also triggers the “itch scratch cycle”–-the more we scratch, the more itch, and the worse our eczema gets.
The best way to help your baby itch less is to determine what’s triggering their eczema flare and work with your pediatrician or dermatologist to develop a treatment plan. You can also take steps to mitigate damage caused by scratching. A great place to start is by regularly trimming your baby’s nails, as shorter, duller nails make it harder for them to break open their skin.
Parents can also invest in mittens or clothing that cover the hands and fingers. Covering up your baby’s hands can help prevent skin damage from scratching, especially if your baby scratches while they sleep. If you chose to use mittens to prevent scratching, opt for a lightweight pair made of breathable fabric so your baby won’t overheat. It is also important to let your baby go without mittens for periods of time so their skin can breathe.
Bathtime is an important part of baby eczema care, and there are many ways to make bath time eczema friendly.
Start by monitoring the temperature of your baby’s bathwater. You want bathwater to be lukewarm: hot water can dry out your baby’s skin, worsening their symptoms. It is also important to keep soaking to a minimum. Limiting bath time to 5-10 minutes gives you enough time to gently cleanse your little one without stripping away moisture from their skin. It’s not necessary to lather up your little one with soap or cleanser all over their body—you only need to use these products on spots where your child is sweaty or smelly.
Take a careful look at the ingredients list when selecting bath products for your child and avoid bubble baths, as these products contain ingredients that can irritate eczema-prone skin. When choosing soaps or cleansers, make sure that they are hypoallergenic and fragrance-free.
Once your baby’s out of the bath, use a towel to pat them dry, as rubbing can be irritating to eczema-prone skin. Once your baby is dry, make sure to moisturize their skin right away. The soak and seal method is commonly recommended by doctors to people with eczema-prone skin. This method includes moisturizing the skin within 3 minutes of getting out of the bath.
A key to keeping your little one comfortable when flare-ups occur is to keep their skin moisturized. The American Academy of Dermatology suggests moisturizing your baby’s skin twice a day to provide relief during flare-ups. There are many lotions and creams on the market for eczema-prone skin, but make sure you choose one that is minimally formulated, safe for your baby’s skin, hypoallergenic, and fragrance free.
A great way to ensure your lotion or cream is free of irritants and allergens is to look for products with the National Eczema Association’s seal of acceptance. These products have undergone rigorous testing and are free of irritating ingredients. Keep in mind that your baby’s skin is unique and might react differently to various creams and lotions. To reduce the risk of a reaction, conduct a spot test by applying a small amount of cream to a single spot on your child’s body, usually the wrist or arm, and monitoring it to see how the skin reacts before applying the product to their whole body.
As a parent, you want your baby to be comfortable, happy, and ready to enjoy the many milestones that lie ahead. Although there is no cure for eczema, simple lifestyle adjustments, coupled with medical treatment, can help you manage your baby’s eczema symptoms so they sleep, grow, play, and learn with comfort and confidence.
Sarah is the Director of Brand Communications at Gladskin, a skincare brand on a mission to improve quality of life for millions of people living with inflammatory skin conditions worldwide. She is a writer and editor who has had severe eczema since she was 3 years old.