Eczema in Babies and Children
Eczema (most often referred to as atopic dermatitis) is a skin condition that causes the skin to become itchy and inflamed. Doctors aren't clear on what exactly causes eczema, but it is seen in approximately 10-20% of children in the US.
Eczema can be triggered by many things such as allergens, stress, environmental factors, and foods. It’s also often linked to food allergies, seasonal allergies and asthma. In fact eczema very often accompanies asthma and allergies – something doctors refer to as the atopic triad.
We have found that the key to managing it is to be mindful about potential triggers, this is one of the best tools for keeping it at bay.
If you suspect your baby has eczema...
In our experience, identifying the trigger has made all the difference. We encourage all parents to see if they can draw connections between the environment (humidity vs. dry climate, different temperatures), new foods, seasonal affects and what they're seeing on their child's skin. You may find several connections and this is very helpful information to have when talking with with your child's pediatrician. Write it all down in a journal.
When we both noticed the dry patches on our boys, they were young babies - one-month and four-months. We also brought it up with our pediatricians to get an official diagnosis. We'd encourage you to start there too.
Parent's Guide to Eczema
We've spent a lot of time researching and testing what helps our babies with eczema. You could say we’ve become a bit obsessed by the topic. In our quest to create the ideal balm for kids with eczema, we’ve also compiled all the best advice for managing baby eczema that we’ve learned along the way.
Our boys’ eczema is triggered by different things – one has very clear environmental triggers (dry climate and super humid climates) and the other is triggered by food and seasonal allergens. However, the insights we've learned from our experiences and that of others outlined below should be helpful regardless of underlying trigger for your child.
Baths can be controversial in the world of eczema. Some parents swear that they dry out their child’s skin, yet for other children baths are tremendously helpful. Both our pediatricians and allergists recommended that we try daily baths and we found that they became an essential step in our everyday eczema care routine. If soaking in the tub helps your child, add baths to your daily care regimen. If baths seem to dry out your child’s skin or worsen flare ups, consider the bathing tips below. Everyone is different and we’ve learned that the same techniques don’t always help everyone.
- Keep the water temperature at around 90-95 degrees. The hotter the water, the more drying it is to the skin. We recommend getting a bath thermometer to accurately gauge the temperature.
- Strive to keep your little one soaking in the tub for 10 minutes. Try reading books or singing songs to pass the time.
- Need some added motivation? We’ve found that the ritual of a nightly bath has other benefits too – like helping our kids wind down for sleep.
- Soap is generally not needed, but when you do use soap make sure you apply it sparingly at the end of the bath and that you rinse the skin well with fresh water. Only use a gentle, fragrance-free baby soap.
- Never use any sort of bubble bath. If a brand touts moisturizing benefits, don’t believe it! For an extra soothing bath that helps calm the skin, consider our Nourishing Bath Herbs or some other herbal, non-soap remedy.
- If your child enjoys toys in the tub, clean them regularly. Run them through the dishwasher or find some other way to sanitize them properly.
- Keep the tub clean, but avoid harsh chemical cleaners or anything with added fragrance.
- Use a clean bath towel for drying off.
- Apply moisturizer to your child’s damp skin within three minutes of getting them out of the tub. This process is often referred to as "soak and seal."
Topical Skin Moisturizers for Eczema
Not all skincare products are created equal. When it comes to over-the-counter eczema skincare products, review the ingredient list and look up what you don’t recognize. In general, water-free products are the best for applying to inflamed eczema patches because they have a high oil content and are better at sealing in moisture.
- Apply a water-free balm or ointment, like our Sensitive Skin Soother, onto eczema flare-ups and the surrounding area about 2-3 times per day.
- Moisturize the entire body at least twice a day with a fragrance-free oil based balm or cream.
- If you don't like balms or Vaseline-textured products, creams are preferred over lotions. Lotions have more water than oil and we've found that can dry out the skin more.
- Applying moisturizers while the skin is damp helps seal in the moisture that has soaked into the skin from the bath. It's important to apply to damp skin!
- Avoid skincare products that list “fragrance” as an ingredient for two reasons for two reasons: 1. Sensitive, eczema-prone skin is highly susceptible to flare-ups when you apply products with added “fragrance” because they’re harsh chemicals. 2. Unfortunately, none of the chemicals in a products fragrance must be listed because they’re considered trade secrets. And worst, most of these chemicals have never been tested for safety and a lot of them are known to not be good for health.
Clothing & Laundry
As a parent, you know how quickly babies outgrow clothes (cue the tears) and it’s as though you’re never not doing laundry. Considering how often clothing touches your child’s skin, it’s essential to ensure they’re not contributing to eczema flare ups.
- Keep your child clothed in natural materials, like cotton. Synthetic fibers are not breathable and can irritate skin. Avoid anything made with polyester.
- Always wash new clothes before dressing your child in them. Many clothing manufacturers apply a chemical finish to raw materials and garments to keep them looking their best. Formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, has been found in many of these finishes alongside a host of other chemicals.
- When washing clothes, stuffed animals, blankets, and linens only use gentle fragrance-free, dye-free laundry detergent and double rinse clothes.
- Avoid fabric softener or dryer sheets as they’re full of chemicals which can irritate the skin. Consider wool dryer balls instead to naturally soften clothes, reduce static, and shorten drying times.
- Many front-loading washing machines easily grow mold so periodically check your machine. Always keep the doors cracked to allow air flow. Wash your machine by adding baking soda and vinegar and running the hot water cycle.
Other Environmental Considerations
- Try to keep humidity levels around 40-45%.
- Look at the materials used in your child’s bedding, sleep sacks, swaddles etc. and opt for products made with cotton, merino wool or other natural fibers. Avoid anything made with polyester.
- Check the ingredients used in your household cleaning products and avoid using anything with fragrance, bleach or other toxic, irritating elements.
- Hand soap often has foaming agents, fragrance and touts ‘anti-bacterial’ properties – all of which you want to avoid. Find a gentle, ingredient-light, fragrance-free (or naturally scented) hand soap.
Content from the Little Love Organics website and blog is not intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. The information provided on this website is intended for general consumer understanding and entertainment only. The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice.