Baby Eczema – who gets it, and how to control it

The incidence of eczema is on the rise, with more and more children being born with the condition every day. The rise can almost certainly be attributed to aspects of our modern way of life, such as more pollution, processed foods and more chemicals and irritants all around us.

Most children who have eczema inherit it from their parents. It is however not eczema itself that they inherit, but the tendency for their body to over react to certain substances in their environment such as dust, pollen, foods and chemicals.

While the exact underlying mechanism as to why this happens is not known, research has shown that babies who are exposed to allergens at an early age (even in the womb) are more likely to develop eczema than others who are not exposed as much.

Finding out that your child has eczema has to be one of the most devastating things for any parent to endure. Thankfully many children will grow out of their eczema, but some won’t, and a parent’s life can be consumed by the endless task of trying to manage their child’s eczema.

Although nothing can be done to change your child’s genetic predisposition to eczema, there are a lot of things you can do to help manage it:

  • Avoiding various trigger factors will play a significant role in helping to prevent your child from flare ups. Work out what seems to irritate your child. Whether it is dust mites, pollen, certain chemicals or maybe even foods, it will help to keep a diary of your child’s experiences and thus help identify irritants.
  • Keep your child’s skin moisturized at all times.
  • Bathe your child in lukewarm water, and use a bath oil to soften the water. If the child is happy to stay in the bath let them soak for 10 – 20 minutes.
  • After the bath, pat skin semi dry and apply an emollient. It is after the soaking that the skin is at its softest and moistest and therefore most receptive to the emollient used.
  • Dress your child in loose fitting, 100% cotton clothes if possible. Avoid wool and other course materials, and if you are wearing wool, put a cotton nappy (diaper) over your shoulder when you hold your child.
  • Keep your child’s fingernails short, and file sharp edges, to help keep the scratching from breaking the skin.
  • Keep pets off beds and other furniture.
  • In dry or heated rooms, use a humidifier to keep the air moist.
  • Diet Matters – keep a food diary, and take various measures to help reduce your child’s risk of flaring up his/her eczema.
  • If your child is still in diapers, at every change apply a thick layer of protective moisturizer under the new diaper. It is also a good idea to let the skin breath at every chance, so when possible leave the diaper off, especially between diaper changes and after a bath.

The various complications associated with eczema can be daunting for any parent. Arming yourself with as much information as possible will be one of your most important allies in your fight to control your child’s eczema.

Although there is no cure for eczema, a helpful doctor or medical professional, plus a sensible program of skin care, lifestyle and diet will help you control your child’s eczema and improve their quality of life.

Mel Sinclair, RN