Does My Baby Have Eczema? Or Is It Something Else?
Your baby has finally arrived, and you are overjoyed. However, you notice that your infant has a few patches of rashy skin. What does that mean?
For many, it may mean a case of infant eczema.
This non-contagious condition can be really stressful for new parents. Plus, there is the added problem of this condition being really uncomfortable and itchy for your baby.
Accordingly, it is vital that you know a little bit more about infant eczema and how to react if you think that your baby has developed this condition.
What Is Infant Eczema?
The term "infant eczema" is frequently used by doctors to describe at least two separate conditions that commonly appear between the ages of two and four months.
These conditions are atopic dermatitis and contact dermatitis.
Atopic dermatitis usually is a chronic, inherited condition that is more likely to happen to babies who have a family history of eczema, asthma and allergies. Estimates suggest that approximately 15 to 20 percent of children are diagnosed with this condition.
The second condition that may be referred to as infant eczema is contact dermatitis. This is a condition that arises after the skin makes contact with a substance that causes irritation. Once the baby is no longer exposed to the irritating substance, the condition typically subsides.
It is possible that eczema rashes will appear all over the baby's body. Alternatively, it may make an appearance in only a few spots. The condition may occasionally worsen in a "flare up." These episodes can be so troubling and itchy that they make it difficult for your baby to sleep, which means that you'll have difficulty sleeping as well.
The most common places for this condition to start are the face and scalp. It is rare to see eczema in the diaper area. If you do see rash here, it probably is diaper rash, and this condition requires a different treatment than eczema.
Babies who are black, female and have a family history of allergies are more likely to develop this condition.
What Does Infant Eczema Look Like?
Eczema does not look the same in every situation. One of the main factors that affects what eczema looks like is the amount of melanin, or pigment, in the baby's skin.
Children who have lighter pigmentation are likely to develop eczema that is red or pink. However, children with darker complexions may have eczema that appears more gray, purple or red-brown. This form of eczema may not be red and inflamed as it is in children with lighter skin, thus making it more difficult to diagnose.
Nonetheless, it is critical that darker complexioned children who have unusual spots on their skin be treated by a physician because if this condition is not treated, it can lead to permanently lightened or darkened areas on the skin where the eczema flare up occurred.
Age similarly may effect what infant eczema looks like. Between birth and six months of age, eczema is more likely to appear in the form of patches of flaky skin. Most frequently, these patches are seen on the cheeks, the scalp and behind the ears.
Between the ages of six and 12 months, eczema also may be seen on the elbows and knees. After crawling on a scratchy surface, your baby may experience a flare up.
By the age of two, eczema is likely to appear on the ankles, hands and wrists. It similarly may be visible in the creases of knees and elbows. The face and eyelids also may be affected, sometimes with deep lines and slight thickening of the skin.
Is Baby Eczema Just Dry Skin?
Having patches of dry skin is merely one symptom of eczema. It is nearly always necessary to have your baby examined by a pediatrician to determine if eczema is the culprit behind any dry skin that your baby is experiencing.
It is a possibility that your doctor will recommend taking your baby to a pediatric dermatologist if the condition appears particularly severe.
If it turns out that your baby just has a little bit of dry skin, then it probably can be treated at home with a soothing moisturizer. Keep in mind that babies with darker skin also tend to have drier skin, so moisturizing is particularly crucial for babies of color.
How Is Infant Eczema Treated?
Your pediatrician may recommend several different types of treatments to ensure that your baby gets healthier by the day. These may include home remedies such as:
- Keeping baby's nail shorter or having her wear mittens
- Daily bathing in lukewarm water for no longer than 10 minutes and using a fragrance-free soap
- Applying a moisturizer at least once a day that is formulated to treat children with eczema
- Asking your pediatrician about stronger treatments if at-home remedies are not helping
If you do apply moisturizer to your baby, do so immediately after her bath, and allow the moisturizer to absorb into her skin for several minutes before putting her in clothing. It generally is wise to reapply the moisturizer at least once more during the day to keep irritation to a minimum.
Finding the right moisturizer for your baby can be difficult. A product that works really well for one child may be irritating to another. Consequently, it makes sense to be prepared to experiment with different products.
Additionally, eczema can change with age, which means that the moisturizer that works at six months of age may no longer work when your baby is one year old.
If you are having difficulty finding a moisturizer that works, then it is wise to consult once again with your pediatrician. There may be a non-steroidal or topical steroid eczema cream to soothe your baby's itchy rash.
Remember that scientists are always working to find new treatments, which means that if you asked your doctor for a stronger treatment before and it didn't work, things may have changed by now. Perhaps there is new learning or a new product that could finally offer your baby's skin the soothing calm that it needs.
Is It Possible to Prevent Baby Eczema?
There's really no cure for atopic dermatitis, which means that it is smart to simply stay on top of the condition with applications of soothing moisturizer and appropriate baths on a regular basis.
If your baby is bothered by contact dermatitis, then it is a matter of identifying what he is allergic to and minimizing his exposure to that substance.
For instance, baby's eczema may be triggered by moisture that arises from sweat, saliva or milk. Use a soft cloth to pat away drool and sweat when you see them, and dress your baby in lighter weight clothing to prevent him from becoming overheated.
The trigger for eczema in other babies is contact with scratchy fabrics. These fabrics may be in clothing or in the stuffed animals that your child adores.
Allergens such as dust, pollen or pet dander can cause a negative reaction in your baby just like they do for you. Try to minimize exposure to these allergens to prevent eczema flare-ups.
It further is possible that contact dermatitis is caused by the laundry detergent you use to wash baby's clothes or the soap that you use in his bath. Try switching out these products to see if it makes a difference.
Breastfeeding and Eczema
Scientific evidence is beginning to suggest that babies who are breastfed may be less likely to develop eczema. It's just one more confirmation that there truly are benefits to breastfeeding baby for as long as you are able.
There also is some evidence that breast milk has antimicrobial properties that may soothe an eczema rash. It can't hurt to try applying a few drops of breast milk to your baby's dry skin to see if it helps.
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