Using the proper skincare products is essential for anyone, but especially for a baby whose skin is extra sensitive. In the first few months, it is common for a baby to develop crusty, flaky patches on their skin. The good news is that this skincare step can prevent many newborns from developing it.
What is eczema?
Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is the most common inflammatory skin condition among children. With eczema, the skin’s natural barrier isn’t working correctly, leaving the skin red, dry and itchy.
It typically runs in families with a history of asthma and allergies, and affects up to one in five infants.
The most common areas of the body affected are the face, neck and head. Eczema in children is more likely to appear in the bends of elbows and knees.
- Itchy skin
- Dry, scaly skin
- Skin that has become leathery
- Tiny blisters that may ooze
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How to treat baby’s eczema
Studies have found that moisturizing for six to eight months, starting within the baby’s first few weeks, can reduce their eczema risk. What moisturizer should you use?
Researchers from Northwestern Health looked at seven over-the-counter moisturizers, including several popular drugstore brands, as well as plain petroleum jelly.
The investigators found that petroleum jelly was the most cost-effective, but that even the most expensive product was a fraction of what the cost of eczema care would be.
What’s more, this has the potential to save babies from great discomfort and quality-of-life consequences.
These include a higher risk of infection, sleep problems and, when eczema follows the baby into childhood, even missed time from school.
More research is underway to see if moisturizing for 12 months is even more effective.
Eczema can cause red, itchy, dry patches on a baby’s skin, particularly in the folds of the legs and arms.
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests how to help treat a baby’s eczema:
- Talk to your pediatrician about which over-the-counter lotions or creams are best for your child’s eczema.
- If your baby’s eczema is mild, the pediatrician may not recommend any treatment
- To keep eczema at bay, bathe your baby with a very gentle cleanser, and use a gentle detergent to clean your baby’s clothes.
- Dress your baby in soft clothing, avoiding wool and similar scratchy fabrics.
- Avoid frequent baths, limiting to no more than three times per week.
- Talk to the doctor about whether your baby should avoid any foods.
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Keeping your child’s eczema under control
If your child does develop eczema, Nemours Foundation offers these suggestions to help keep eczema under control:
- Take lukewarm (not hot) baths with mild cleansers. Avoid soaps that dry the skin or contain fragrance.
- Let your child soak in an oatmeal bath, if your doctor recommends it.
- Don’t scrub your child dry after a bath. Instead, gently pat the skin.
- Dress your child in soft, breathable clothing made from cotton, rather than made of a coarse fabric such as wool.
- Rub a moisturizing lotion, cream or ointment into your child’s skin just after getting out of the bath.
- Apply a cool compress to irritated skin, and keep fingernails short to limit scratching.
- Rid the home of as many allergens as possible.
- Encourage your child to drink plenty of water, which will hydrate the skin.