Eczema is an extremely common condition that makes you uncomfortable in your own skin…literally.
The hallmarks of Eczema are dry, red patches of skin that become itchy and rough to the touch. Affected skin might crack, become thickened or inflamed. The condition knows no age… affecting babies, children and adults, but most people develop Eczema before age 5.
Although it affects 30% of people in the United States, Eczema is often confused with other skin conditions like seborrheic dermatitis or cradle cap, since they can both begin in infancy. Despite overlapping symptoms, the conditions are distinct and require different treatments. It’s helpful to know that Cradle Cap tends to present a brownish/yellow crust in the scalp, forehead and eyebrows and begins in the first several months of life as and occurs in different locations of the body than Eczema. For more on Cradle Cap/Seborrheic Dermatitis, click here.
Baby Eczema versus Atopic Dermatitis
Baby Eczema and Atopic Dermatitis are different names used to describe the same condition. Chances are you’ll hear “Baby Eczema” and “Atopic Dermatitis” used interchangeably by your pediatrician or dermatologist.
How can I tell if a baby rash is really Eczema?
Newborns get many rashes that come and go. Milia (white spots on nose), neonatal acne (red bumps on cheeks), erythema toxicum (ant bite looking bumps all over the body) are just a few. But when Eczema shows up, it doesn’t go away within a few days or weeks.
It helps to know where the “Eczema Zones” tend to be. With babies up to 2 years old, atopic dermatitis typically shows up on cheeks and on the opposite sides of joints — the part of your elbow you would rest on a table when leaning forward or the part of the knees that touch the ground when kneeling on the floor. In this age group, a rash might bubble up and sometimes leak a small amount of fluid, and the extreme itchiness can interfere with an infant’s sleep.
In kids aged 2 until puberty, rashes tend to appear in the creases of the elbows/knees. Other common “Eczema Zones” include the neck, wrists, ankles, groin and behind the ears.
In adults, the Eczema tends to show up in the folds of the knees and elbows and the affected skin can have a thickened leathery feel to it.
Can it Get Infected?
The constant itchiness of Eczema in children is particularly hard for parents to manage because the excessive scratching can occasionally lead to infection. You can tell skin has become infected when the red patches become extra-red and raw. Infection can also trigger blisters that may ooze or “weep” a clear fluid. These blisters can then get covered in a honey-colored crust. Some parents put mittens or socks on their baby’s hands to avoid harsh scratching.
While infected skin might look bad, it is good to know Eczema is not contagious. Your baby can’t “catch Eczema” nor infect anyone else. Eczema is a condition that definitely can run in the family.
More than half of children with Eczema will outgrow the condition. Those who continue to have flare-ups as adults will discover their rashes take on different characteristics and could go for years without symptoms.
Treating Infant Rash caused by Eczema
While there is no “cure” for Eczema, there are treatments that can manage and ease symptoms.
Essential for any baby, child or adult plagued by Eczema rashes is gentle skin care that takes into account every single thing that gets put on the skin.
At bath time, use any temperature water and irritant free cleansers. Soaps (and lotions) with fragrances and dyes can worsen already irritated skin. Ideal bath time cleansers include products like Dr. Eddie’s Happy Cappy Daily Shampoo & Body Wash, a pediatrician-formulated cleanser specifically designed for itchy, dry, irritated skin. Whatever you select, you want a pure cleanser without fragrances, dyes, parabens or sulfates. Bath time should soothe and hydrate, not irritate.
You’ll want to regularly moisturize eczema skin with dermatology-approved oils, creams or ointments, which are available over-the-counter. Your doctor may prescribe corticosteroids, non-steroidal prescription creams, wet dressings (in more severe cases), and anti-itch medications. Some adults get prescribed light therapy by their dermatologists.
Creams with added glycerine, ceramides, licorice root extract, and oatmeal can help lessen the symptoms of eczema.
Can I Prevent Infant Eczema?
Using an irritant free moisturizing cream or ointment two times per day can reduce flare ups. Shortly after bathing is when the moisturizer should be applied. Following these practices can reduce the need for steroid use on the skin, and bring a world of relief to your baby.
The wrong clothing, for example, can exacerbate the Eczema rash. Experts advise dressing babies and children in light, loose, soft clothing in breathable fabrics like cotton. Avoid rough, scratchy, tight clothes and fabrics like wool and non-breathable synthetics.
Don’t just wash your child with pure soaps…wash their clothes in pure soap, too. That means avoiding fabric softeners and scented detergents with added dye. If your washing machine offers an extra rinse cycle, use it. It’s all about keeping things clean and pure.
If your home has carpet and your child likes to play on the floor, place a cotton sheet on the ground.
Believe it or not, it is controversial if avoiding food allergens benefits Eczema. Climate on the other hand, can be a factor in Eczema flares. While it may be difficult depending on where you live, it is advisable to avoid excessive heat and low humidity.
These are all small but important steps that can prevent flare-ups and provide real relief from the irritation of Eczema in children and adults.