Living with Baby Eczema

Although both adults and children can develop eczema it is predominantly considered a childhood condition. The fact is there are many different forms of eczema and it is the atopic form of eczema that most commonly affects children. One Scottish study revealed that children are five times more prone to develop atopic eczema than adults.

Two Months

That is the age that eczema frequently first appears. Two Months.

It is rare for a child to develop atopic eczema before the age of two months. The reason for this is unclear however one theory is that the baby’s nervous system is too immature prior to this age to enable the baby the ability to scratch.

Eczema is a very individual condition and each child will suffer differently. Similarly the severity of the eczema will vary from child to child. Despite this the clinical features and the pattern of involvement make atopic eczema usually quite easy to recognize.

Dry, red, scaly and itchy skin

Atopic eczema may appear in small patches or cover the whole body. Typically the affected skin is dry, red, scaly and very itchy. Eczema is characteristically quite severe in the early months often becoming less severe by the age of two years.

Skin oozes and crusts

For a baby who develops childhood atopic eczema between the ages of 2 -4 months the initial symptoms include inflammation of the skin with oozing and crusting. The cheeks and scalp are often the first areas affected.

Facial eczema usually subsides and the rash becomes more prominent on the limbs especially the wrists and hands and behind the knees and elbows.

Dry scaly eczema

Childhood atopic eczema may continue on past the age of two years but for some the first signs do not appear until this age. When eczema develops around the age of two years the oozing and crusting is less common as the rash is usually drier and scaly.

Atopic eczema clears spontaneously in the majority of children between the ages of 2 – 5 years. If it does persist there is usually a marked improvement by the time they start school. However those with severe eczema when young may carry their eczema into their teenage years or even into adulthood.

Although nothing can be done to cure your child’s eczema there is a lot that can be done to help control it.

Controlling eczema

  • If possible avoid any irritants that you know will irritate your child’s skin
  • Bathe your child in lukewarm water, and use a Bath Oil to help moisturize the skin.
  • After the bath, pat skin semi dry and apply an emollient
  • Dress your child in loose fitting, 100% cotton clothes if possible. Avoid wool and other coarse 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 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.
  • Cotton gloves or mitts especially at night are also a good idea to minimize damage from itching
  • Distraction is the best remedy. Try to keep your child’s mind and hands busy so that they are less inclined to scratch.
  • As the child gets older explain to them why they must try not to scratch. If they will co-operate and try to care for their own eczema life will be much easier for all.
  • Change diapers regularly and leave the nappy off when possible to allow the skin to breathe.

Eczema cannot be cured but it can be managed

Although it often feels like you are the only ones in this situation – you are not alone. Childhood eczema is a very common condition. Arm yourself with as much information as you can and talk to people in a similar situation. Build up a support network around you.

And most of all don’t give up – keep at it until you find the right solution to control your child’s eczema.

Control the eczema, don’t let it control you.

Mel Sinclair, RN