Baby’s skin is always soft and smooth, or is it? My daughter developed rashes at two weeks old and I didn’t think it was anything to be concerned with, especially when rashes was stated by the maternity hospital as one of the common symptoms that would not warrant doctor’s consultation. However, my daughter’s rashes were eczema rash and not ‘baby acne’ which would resolve on its own.
It is very difficult to take care of a baby with eczema as the itch experienced by the baby could mean crankiness during the day and sleepless throughout the night. Parents and caregivers can get burned out and stressed taking care of a baby with severe eczema. Here are the top 10 quick facts about eczema that will help parents with eczema children.
Eczema Fact #1
Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, refers to an inflammatory skin condition that is characterized by itch, rash, lesions, blister, pus, pigmented or thickened skin. It affects 20% of children, and usually onset in the first year of birth.
Eczema Fact #2
Eczema is a multi-factorial condition, meaning that several factors may contribute to eczema. Genetics is a factor as the chance of baby having eczema is higher when parents or siblings have eczema or another allergic condition. Other factors include allergy, defective skin barrier and the environment.
Eczema Fact #3
Eczema is categorized as a chronic condition, meaning there is no cure. However, many children ‘outgrow’ their eczema or have it in a mild form that is controllable with non-prescription cream. The mechanism for outgrowing eczema is not well known – it is associated with stronger immunity
or the child no longer being affected by certain triggers of eczema flare-ups.
Typically, the less severe the eczema, the fewer allergies, the higher chance of
Eczema Fact #4
Finding the triggers of eczema flare-up is a key step to controlling the eczema. In young children, the triggers could be food, environment (house dust mite is the most common) or substances the skin comes into contact with. Some children also get flare-up during hot weather, when having a fever or when stressed.
Eczema Fact #5
Allergy testing is able to help the doctor find out the triggers of your child’s flare-up. Allergy testing, such as skin prick test and IgE blood test, can be taken as young as six months old and fairly accurate. For parents who haven’t been able to figure out the triggers and close to getting paranoid especially when feeding solids start, it would be a good time to arrange for allergy testing.
Eczema Fact #6
Not all eczema is food-related and there are six common food groups that cover what more than 80% of children are allergic to; these common food allergens are cow’s milk, eggs, wheat, soy, fish and nuts. Parents can bring their child for another allergy test as they get older to review if any food allergies have been outgrown.
Eczema Fact #7
Basic skincare is important, the top 3 items to remember are:
- Avoid harsh soaps, fragrance and ingredients that frequently irritate skin. Check out the list here and its alternative names.
- Do not take hot or long showers – both strip moisture from baby’s skin. Do not rub the body dry, instead dab dry.
- Moisturize immediately after shower to retain moisture on skin.
Eczema Fact #8
Avoid scratching – this is easily said than done as the itch for eczema can be intense, after all, eczema is often called the rash that itches. Parents can explore having babies wear mittens or come up with distraction techniques for an older child. Scratching can easily lead to infection and promotes the itch-scratch cycle where the scratching leads to more skin inflammation and further itch.
Eczema Fact #9
Eczema is not contagious and children can be empowered with that knowledge to help them when interacting with other children. Most children with severe eczema or eczema that is apparent on the face tend to suffer from low self-esteem – it can be difficult growing up with eczema. Parents can help by role-playing with their child to give them the confidence to tell others that their rash is not contagious and explain eczema in a simple manner.
Eczema Fact #10
Eczema that is severe, cause continual itch, scratching with rashes that do not resolve warrants treatment. The goal is to control eczema so that the child’s (and parents’) quality of life is not compromised. Skincare and identification of triggers are important. Any steroidal treatment ought to be taken with care with clear instructions on frequency and duration of use, and how the skin ought to look like after certain duration of use. Seeing many doctors and getting many prescription creams can cause side effects to the child as the usage of creams add up with no proper monitoring of the child’s skin.
It is heart-breaking to see our child suffer from eczema. Parents can turn to family, friends and support groups and remember not to neglect their own health when caring for their child.
This article is contributed by Mei, also known as MarcieMom of EczemaBlues.com. Mei has co-authored the book Living with Eczema: Mom Asks, Doc Answers with her daughter’s doctor Professor Hugo van Bever. More information on purchasing of the book here.