By Dr. Eddie Valenzuela

“Doctor, please help me,” said the first-time mom, tears suddenly streaming down her face. “How can I stop my baby from scratching?”  An Eczema patient herself, this woman had successfully dealt with her own sporadic symptoms for years, but watching her 9-month-old scratching his skin raw was a new form of agony.

“I can’t stand seeing him so red and fussy and obviously uncomfortable,” she said, pleading for help.

Cases like this are nothing new in my practice. Babies don’t know they shouldn’t scratch themselves until they bleed. They just know they’re itchy and need relief.  And even parents who’ve experienced eczema don’t necessarily know how to handle eczema on a baby’s delicate skin.

The advice I’m going to give you is a combination of practical and topical.

CUT YOUR BABY’S NAILS

It may seem obvious, but it’s easy to lose track of how long your baby’s nails have grown. While an infant’s nails are thin, they can grow very quickly and do damage. You may need to cut your child’s nails up to twice a week.

PRO TIP:  Cut baby’s nails when they’re asleep or groggy and relaxed after a big meal to minimize squirming. But don’t overcompensate by over-trimming!  Simply cut along the natural curve of the nail, and never trim down the sides of the nail, which can lead to infection.

GET HANDS ON!

With an itchy eczema baby, applying lotion isn’t a once-a day-ritual.  While ideal times are after bathing or washing, you’ve got to keep your child’s skin moisturized throughout the day. Dewy skin keeps eczema flare-ups and itching at bay.

The very act of of rubbing your hands across your baby’s skin with lotion can have a cooling, calming effect that may actually be enough to calm an itch.

Then there’s the moisturizer you choose.  Any creamy lotion you’ve got on the shelf won’t do, no matter how luxurious or high end. It’s got to be a pure, fragrance-free, moisturizing eczema cream specifically formulated for sensitive skin.  Thick ointments with lots of oil lock in more moisture, but children (and adults!) often tend to dislike the feel, especially in warm and/or humid climates. And the whole point of moisturizing is to make baby comfortable!

That real world experience is a major reason I decided to formulate my own Dr. Eddie’s Eczema Cream to feel light and absorbent while being ultra pure and effective. Whatever product you choose, the cooling sensation of a baby eczema cream should ideally spread easily and keep skin feeling fresh.

And since I mentioned ideal moments to moisturize are after washing and bathing, be sure you’re also using an Eczema Body Wash.  Again, a soap that bills itself as “99% pure” isn’t pure enough.  Choose a product formulated specifically for eczema and other sensitive skin conditions. My own Dr. Eddie’s Happy Cappy Shampoo and Body Wash is an example of a product that cleanses and soothes without fear of aggravating eczema.

COOL OFF!

Cold compresses can stop your baby from scratching their eczema.  You can use a damp, cold washcloth or an ice pack wrapped in a soft towel. Hold the compress to your child’s skin for a few minutes whenever you notice they need itch relief. You can try this throughout the day, as needed.

Wet wraps are a sort of super-compress best done right before bedtime.  After soaking your child in a lukewarm bath for 5 to 10 minutes, gently pat the skin dry and liberally apply your pure moisturizer for baby eczema or any medication your pediatrician may have prescribed.

Then get to wrapping:

  • Moisten clean gauze bandages with water and wrap the especially itchy areas.
  • Cover the wet bandages with a dry bandage or towel to lock in the moisture, and leave overnight.
  • You can apply wet wraps on any part of your child’s body that’s especially itchy.

SHOW YOUR LOVE WITH GLOVES

So you’ve done everything, but baby is still scratching their eczema-plagued skin. They’re tearing up their skin, which exposes them to possible infection, and you’ve just got to figure out how to shepherd them through the worst of their symptoms without scarring.

That’s when you put gloves on them – cotton or silk – to keep them from scratching, especially at night when both of you need to get rest. Thankfully, there are a host of specialty products available to parents today… sleeves, mittens, gloves… all in cool, natural fibers that physically prevent your baby from scratching.

I recommend moisturizing your baby’s skin before putting on any glove, sleeve or mitten, and be sure to moisturize baby’s face, too.

As bad as it may seem at times, remember that you are not alone. Baby eczema is common and — best of all — temporary.  You may need to experiment with different approaches to find what works for your child in that phase, but the worst of it will pass. And there are more products, tools and knowledge available now more than ever before to help battle the itch of baby eczema.

Remember that tearful mom I mentioned at the beginning? The one desperate to help her baby?  She helped her baby. With patience and good information, she made it through her son’s worst phase of itchy eczema.  And that’s what will help you, too… Good information, patience, and a willingness to be open to trying new things. It’s all one step at a time.