Baby eczema or dry skin?
Some babies suffer from eczema when they are only a few weeks old. It is different to just havng dry skin and can be sore, inflamed and very itchy and annoying for your little one.
Dry skin is usually the same colour or a little paler than your baby's normal skin stone. It may feel bumpy or dry to the touch. If your baby is suffering from a spot of dry skin, you should be able to sooth them by moisturising with a natural oil like olive or baby moisturising creams. Organic creams are less likely to cause a further allergic reaction.
What does baby eczema look like?
Eczema usually begins as dry, itchy skin that is pink or red. This may become worse as your baby tries to rub the itchy areas and they can become broken or inflammed. Even at a very young age, babies are able to sense where they are itching and try to do something about it. Unfortunately this makes it worse. Sometimes rashes can become scaly, raised and in severe cases, the bumps may even bleed. Babies are most likely to get eczema around their joints, on their scalp, chest or forehead but it can occur anywhere.
What causes baby eczema?
Sometimes eczema can be caused by a food allergy, but in the early months your baby is not eating foods and unless there are other signs of breastmilk allergy the best you can do is keep the problem at bay. The biggest cause is the oversensitivity of your baby's immune system which over-reacts to common triggers like dust. Most babies grow out of this by the age of 3 and after she turns 1, it's likely the worst of the symptoms will be over.
Treating baby eczema
• Laundry Non-bio washing products, especially ones which are developed for sensitive skin or specifically for babies can really help. It's also better to dry your clothes outside on a line if possible, rather than in the tumble dryer when you can.
• Bathtime Don't scrub or over-clean your baby's skin too zealously. Ask your pharmacist or GP for an alternative to soap that cleans more gently. You may also be able to get these on prescription if they're expensive over the counter. Body washes and other baby toiletries containing natural oils and organic ingredients can be good for sensitive and allergy-prone skin and we've picked our favourite organic skincare ranges to help keep your baby's skin soft and blemish-free. Keep the water temperature lukewarm as this makes it easier for your baby's skin to retain moisture.
• Clothes and bedding Try to dress your child in cotton clothes as they are more breathable than synthetics. Do the same with bedclothes and avoid letting her get too hot. Wool can be itchy and worsen scratching and flare ups so avoid putting it against her skin. If itchy skin is really disrupting your baby's sleep, it may be worth considering hypoallergenic bedsheets or pillows that help keep microbes and dust mites away. Check that they are suitable for babies before you buy, though.
Using medicated products
If gentle moisturiers and organic creams don't help, your GP may suggest using a stronger skin cream. Some cases of eczema just won't shift until you've pulled out the big guns and you may be recommended a steriod cream. Not all these treatments are as powerful as they sound, but discuss the choices with your GP so that you are happy treating your child with something suitable to her age and how serious her eczema is.
For more about the condition in babies and older children, visit www.eczema.org.