Infantile Eczema – the basics

Eczema in infants tends to start at about 2-4 months of age, and is generally the result of an allergic reaction to food (usually cow’s milk or eggs), environmental inhalers or pollens.

The feature of eczema is the appearance on the face, scalp and exterior aspects of the arms and legs of red, itchy lesions. These ‘papules’ (small and round) weep, ooze and become crusty with intense itching.

Unaffected areas tend to be dry and rough.

The infant is often irritable, fretful and unable to sleep due to itching.

The scratching of the affected area leads to increased weeping and oozing of the lesions, along with an increased risk of a secondary skin infection.

It is important to note that eczema is not contagious.

Eczema is not a disease

Eczema is not a disease but rather a reactive state of the skin. Eczema can be controlled but not cured.

There is usually a family history of dermatitis, asthma and/or hay fever (allergic rhinitis).

Suggested care of infants with eczema

To minimize the risk of the infant scratching the eczema and developing a secondary skin infection, ensure fingernails and toenails are cut short and kept clean. Also make sure that the nails are filed if necessary to remove any sharp edges.

Gloves or cotton stockings over the hands (and pinned to shirt sleeves) also reduce the ability of the infant to scratch.

100% cotton bedding is recommended as being least irritating.

Ultraviolet light (i.e. the sun) dries weeping lesions.

Of course, a hypoallergenic diet is best to try and remove the allergic material from the infants diet.

Things to avoid

  • Avoid hot baths
  • Avoid soaps on the affected area
  • Avoid talc
  • Avoid overheating, high humidity and perspiration
  • Avoid woollen clothes and woollen blankets
  • When washing sheets use a mild detergent, rinse very thoroughly and do not use fabric softeners.

Mel Sinclair, RN