Infant Eczema- Definition, Appearance, Causes & Remedies
So your baby has developed some dry skin, or maybe some bumps on their skin and you’re trying to determine what it is so you can help to make it better. A common skin condition is called eczema. I have had eczema since I was 2, so I have some first-hand experience in dealing with and treating eczema. Adults eczema and infant eczema appear different, but can often be treated in the same way.
Because of my experience, I want to share some of the knowledge I have gained over the years. Everything I share is based on my own personal experience. I am not a medical professional and I have no medical training. As with any medical decision, always consult your physician.
*This post may contain affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase using this link. I only recommend products I love or would personally use.
What is infant eczema?
The most common form of infant eczema is called atopic dermatitis. It’s estimated that about 13% of all children under the age of 18 have atopic dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis is one of the types of eczema, dermatitis simply means inflammation of the skin. When either external or internal factors trigger eczema, a rash occurs. This happens because of an overactive immune system.
Essentially, your baby’s body is saying it doesn’t like something. It may be a body wash or lotion you’ve put on them. It could be dry weather or sensitivity to what they’re eating.
If you’re using formula, you may need to talk to your pediatrician about switching. In the case that you’re breastfeeding, your baby may be experiencing sensitivity to something in your diet. If this is the case, you may want to go on an elimination diet to see if there is a noticeable trigger food. I had to do this once, but there wasn’t any particular food that triggered our little one’s eczema as I slowly added foods back into my diet.
What does it look like?
Eczema looks different in every baby, especially depending on age. A baby who is only 6 months or younger will often experience eczema on their cheeks, chin, forehead, and scalp. As a baby gets older and their mobility changes, you may notice eczema in places like their elbows and knees. This is because of the constant irritation as a baby is learning to crawl. And once again, things will change as your kids get older.
Oftentimes, kids will experience eczema in places that stay naturally warmer, just as in the inside crease of their arms, and the back crease of their legs. Another place you may find eczema is on their hands when you begin washing them more frequently.
The appearance of eczema can vary from infant to infant. It will sometimes appear as bumps, while other times it may appear as a rash. It may also form a circle that is crusty on the outside and red on the inside. Most of the time, it will appear inflamed and often can be painful or itchy.
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What causes eczema in infants?
There are several factors that could be playing a role in your infant’s eczema. If a parent has eczema or had it as a child, this could increase the possibility of their children getting it. Other factors include things like overuse of antibiotics, baby’s being born in more sterile environments, and an increase in sugary and processed foods in a parent’s diet. No one thing is likely to be the exact factor of your infant’s eczema, but more likely a mixture of several.
What are the triggers of eczema?
Every person with eczema is going to have different triggers, and it may take a while for you to identify what thing(s) are causing the reaction. Some of the most common triggers for eczema are:
Allergens, such as pollen or dust
When little ones are exposed to basic allergens, you may notice a flare-up in their eczema. This is likely because they have a sensitivity to the allergen. You may also notice that your baby’s eczema is worse when the pollen count is high. Things like this could be triggers for your baby.
Heat, which causes sweat
Eczema doesn’t like to be warm and moist. The combination of those two things will likely cause a flare-up in someone who has eczema. The best thing you can do is to try to keep those areas as dry as possible. The places you’d likely see this be an issue are the forehead, back of the knees, and inside crease of the arms.
There are perfumes and fragrances all over. Anytime you smell something that seems unnatural, chances are it is. These irritants can also be what triggers your infant’s eczema. Things like lotions, perfumes, and even baby body wash can be quick triggers for eczema. Another thing to consider what you’re washing your baby’s clothes in. Especially when they’re little you should be used a wash that is free of fragrance and dyes. If this is the case with your baby, avoid them when possible.
When it begins to get cold outside, you’ll want to keep your baby’s skin exposure to the cold to a minimum. When the skin gets dry, you will possibly see a flare up in your infant’s eczema. This is because the skin needs moisture, otherwise those dry patches can quickly turn into eczema.
Infection on the skin
If your baby is experiencing some type of infection on the skin, this could lead to eczema. Sometimes even, your pediatrician may prescribe a steroid cream which could actually make your infant’s eczema worse. Have that discussion with your pediatrician before applying a steroid cream.
For many children and adults, their eczema tends to be worse during the winter months. Often, this is due to lack of time in the sunlight, as well as dryer air conditions. Having the heat on in the house will dry out the air more than normal, which can irritate your baby’s eczema.
Ways to treat eczema
- Probiotics: an infant probiotic is always a good idea if your little one is having skin issues. There is a reason to believe that an imbalance in the gut can cause eczema. If this is the case with your infant, a probiotic can help restore the gut back to a healthy state. We even used a probiotic with one of our kids when given a colic diagnosis. This probiotic seemed to help ease belly pain, so this may be worth a shot at helping ease the annoyance of eczema.
- Oatmeal Bath: Even as an adult who suffers from eczema, I LOVE oatmeal baths. They are very calming for the skin and can even be mixed with a bit of lavender. Both oatmeal and lavender are great for calming irritated skin. You can buy this oatmeal bath over the counter and it’s fantastic!
- Breast Milk: If you are a breastfeeding mom, you are about to learn a whole new reason as to why breast milk is called liquid gold. There are some incredible healing properties in breast milk and they can be really helpful when applied to the skin or put into your baby’s bath.
- Coconut Oil: Coconut oil is an amazing moisturizer that is all natural and not filled with harmful, irritating chemicals. You can find it at your local grocery store, and for relatively cheap even. If you use essential oils, you can use coconut oil as your carrier oil. We buy coconut oil in a big tub because it’s also great for cooking as well. This is one of the top-rated cold-pressed, unrefined coconut oils!
- Detergents, Dyes, Perfumes: As I mentioned before, the type of laundry detergent you use can have a significant effect on your baby’s skin. Make sure you are using a laundry detergent that is pure and free of harmful chemicals, dyes, and perfumes. This is my favorite laundry detergent for skin with eczema.
- Lavender Essential Oil: Lavender essential oil is one of my favorites. Another one of my favorites for infant eczema is called Gentle Baby, from Young Living essential oils. I mix a couple of drops of the oil into a carrier oil like coconut oil, and I use that as a moisturizer for our kids. I highly recommend that you do some research and make sure you understand how to use essential oils before using them.
- Humidifier: During the winter months, the air tends to become dry because we fill our homes with heat. This can trigger infant eczema because your baby’s skin is going to be more dry than usual. One way you can help this is to run a humidifier in your home, or at least in your baby’s room at night. This will help to put some extra moisture back into the air.
- Bathe Less Often: Since dry skin can be a major factor with infant eczema, it may be helpful if you bathe your baby less often. Instead of bathing every day, maybe bathe them every 2-3 days. Or, as we do, our kids take a bath every night, but we only use soap every 2-3 nights during the winter. They aren’t running outside playing in the mud and getting dirty, so soap isn’t always a necessity.
- Topical steroids: shouldn’t be used for more than 2 weeks. One option for treating infant eczema is a topical, steroid cream. It is important to note that there is a limit on the amount of time you should use these creams. They are a steroid and can damage skin with prolonged use. If you have any questions or concerns, you should speak with your pediatrician.
- Over-the-counter creams: There are some really great over the counter creams. As I mentioned before, I have had eczema all my life. I have tried a combination of nearly everything I have listed above. Some have worked well, and others haven’t been as successful for me. I have also noticed patches of eczema on my kids every so often and so I have gone the more natural route with them, meaning avoiding steroids. I have tried several of the things listed in the “natural” category above, but I have also found some creams that have worked for us as well. One of my favorites is the Aveeno Baby Eczema Therapy Cream. It is smooth and seems to do a good job of calming irritated skin. There is also an Aveeno Eczema Relief Moisturizer that is pretty good as well. Cetaphil makes a really great body wash and moisturizer that seem to not irritate the skin. I have also heard a basic hydrocortisone cream can be helpful also.
How to prevent infant eczema?
There isn’t really a good answer for this. If you are reading this, chances are you have an infant who is currently experiencing eczema already. But, if you plan to have more children, you could avoid sugary and processed foods several months prior to becoming pregnant and continue that habit while pregnant to see if it makes a difference. The only other way to prevent eczema is once your baby is born and that is simply to avoid things that may be triggering your infant’s eczema.
Should I take my infant to the doctor?
Typically, infant eczema can be treated at home with a combination of natural and over the counter remedies. If nothing seems to be working or if the swelling has become a concern, then it would certainly be reasonable, and advisable to have your doctor take a look.
Will infant eczema go away?
Many infants will outgrow their eczema. I am an exception to the rule, considering I have had eczema since I was 2. My eczema is certainly manageable, and nothing I am overly concerned about. As your child gets older, you should hopefully notice that the occurrences of eczema are becoming less and less until they are non-existent.
Infant eczema can become painful for your baby, so you’ll want to make sure that you act as quickly as possible. Begin by treating the symptoms until you can figure out the trigger(s). Once you have identified the triggers, you can hopefully avoid them, and your baby’s eczema will no longer be an issue. Over time, the goal would be for your infant’s eczema to completely disappear!
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