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While eczema (atopic dermatitis) is quite a common skin condition, with 1 in 5 children under the age of 2 being affected, nothing is worse than knowing that your bub is suffering and feeling like you can’t do anything to give them relief! The dry, scaly patches of skin and red, itchy rashes typical of eczema can sometimes start in newborns from birth, but eczema usually flares up when babies are 2 – 3 months old.
There are many factors that can cause eczema, including genetic, environmental, and dietary, and therefore no one magical treatment. These below tips and products however have proven successful for many itchy babes, and may be helpful in soothing your baby’s skin too. Make sure you speak with your child’s doctor about a suitable treatment plan – if their eczema is particularly severe, you may need to explore wet wrap therapy, corticosteroids, or prescription treatments as well.
Tips for Bath Time
Keep your baby’s bath time short, and only use warm, tepid water as hot baths make eczema worse. Don’t use soap which dries out their skin, instead try using a mild soap-free wash such as Vanicream Gentle Wash for Baby or CeraVe Baby Wash & Shampoo, and add a fragrance-free, moisturising bath oil to the bath water, like Grahams Natural Baby Eczema Body & Bath Oil. Most babies do not require their hair to be shampooed, however if you are to use a shampoo, pick a gentle, pH-neutral and soap-free product.
During winter, you could limit daily washing to your baby’s face and bottom, only giving them a full bath every second day. Gently pat (don’t rub) your baby’s skin with a soft towel, and while it’s still slightly damp, apply moisturiser straight away to prevent the skin from drying out.
The best creams to use on eczema are the ones that supplement the skin’s own natural composition of ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids. Occlusive ointments, such as petroleum jelly (Vaseline) is often used by eczema sufferers to help with the discomfort, but doesn’t actually repair the damaged skin barrier which characterises eczema. The long term goal should be to heal the skin and retain its moisture, and this in turn will ease the symptoms and discomfort of eczema.
You may prefer to use a lighter moisturiser or lotion during the day when bub is active, and a heavier balm or ointment at night after bathing. Popular products include Cetaphil Baby Eczema Soothing Lotion for daytime and Aveeno Eczema Therapy Nighttime Balm at night, both recommended by the National Eczema Association.
If those particular products aren’t available where you are, here are some ingredients to look for when choosing an appropriate baby eczema cream:
- Plant oils, such as jojoba, rosehip and evening primrose oil
- Shea butter
- Aloe vera
And these are the ingredients you should try to avoid:
- Allergens, such as nut-based ingredients
- Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)
- Artificial perfumes and fragrances
Tips for Bedtime
Silk bedding is the perfect sleeping surface for babies and their sensitive skin, particularly those with eczema. Cotton and other absorbent fabrics actually draw in the natural oils in your bub’s skin while they sleep, and also strips away the moisturising creams and balms that you so diligently apply before bedtime. The breathable fibres and natural hydrating properties of silk help to retain these vital oils, and allow creams and other products to fully absorb into baby’s skin, rather than into their bedding.
The temperature regulating properties and luxuriously soft finish of silk also help to soothe bub’s skin and provide a comfortable night’s rest. Silk is also naturally hypoallergenic, dust mite resistant and antimicrobial, so germs are unable to cling to or grow on it, like they can with cotton or wool. Using silk baby bedding, such as the Sleepy Silk Crib Fitted Sheet, helps bub’s skin retain moisture, prevents overheating and eliminates irritations caused by friction, dust mites and nasty microbes.
To stop your baby from scratching and aggravating their eczema during the night, keep their nails clean, trimmed and filed and put mittens on their hands. If your bub tends to pull mittens off, check out Goumikids Scratch Free Baby Mittens which feature a Velcro closure, or Crummy Bunny Stay on Mittens which have extra long cuffs.
Tips for All the Time
Since heat is the most common eczema trigger, make sure that you keep baby cool – overheating and sweat are an eczema sufferer’s worst nightmare. Check that the temperature in your home is not too high and that your baby doesn’t have too many layers of clothing on.
Clothing should be loose, and made from breathable fabrics, so stay clear of wool and polyester that can irritate bub’s skin. When choosing a laundry detergent for your baby’s clothes and bedding, make sure you use a hypoallergenic, pH-neutral and fragrance-free one, such as Tide Free and Gentle Liquid Laundry Detergent.
Other common eczema triggers include dust mites, mould, pollen, fur, fragrances and bubble bath, so be mindful of keeping these away from your baby and look out for them when a flare-up occurs.
Make sure you are applying moisturiser to your baby’s skin several times throughout the day, not only after a bath. Pack these creams with you when you and bub are on the go, so that you can apply some as soon as they start to scratch. Be diligent, and continue to use moisturiser daily, even when your baby’s eczema has improved and seems to have cleared.
There will likely be a bit of trial and error involved in finding the best cream for your baby’s eczema, so keep a diary documenting the new products you try and the results that you see. There are many different free and paid apps out there for helping you document eczema flare-ups, such as Redblink Inc’s Eczema Tracker, so you can keep track of irritants and treatments quickly on your phone no matter where you are.
Lastly, be patient - when treating eczema it can take several weeks before you see noticeable results, so be persistent and hang in there. Best of luck!