Baby eczema is very common, by some accounts the most commonly-occurring skin disease among newborns and infants. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there were around 4 million babies born in 2010 in the US alone (specifically, 3,999,386) – that’s about 457 babies born every hour! The accepted estimate by doctors of the number of people with eczema is 20%, so of those 457 babies, 90 or so are likely to develop eczema, and that’s in the US alone. Eight hundred thousand babies a year born with eczema or who will develop eczema later on.
Eczema causes the first layer of skin – the epidermis – to become inflamed, and carries with it symptoms like itching and redness, while the skin may crack, flake off and bleed. The most common areas to find baby eczema will be in the folds of the elbows, arms and knees, as well as the face, cheeks and back of the neck. Thankfully, the nappy area is generally left eczema free.
In some cases eczema can occur along with diseases like asthma and hay fever. When this seems to be the case, keeping the child’s surrounding clear of the allergen should become a main priority, and once that allergen is gone, often the eczema clears up along with the underlying disease.
The possible causes of eczema are diverse – food allergies along with other allergies are often triggers, along with stress and the body’s psychological reaction to stress, to name a few. But an infant with baby eczema is more likely to have the condition if s/he has a sibling or parent that once had eczema, so the genetic component appears to be important.
Depending on the baby and extent of the flare up, emollient oils, soaps and other topical methods may be all that is required to manage the inflammation and resulting irritations, if the child has a mild to moderate case. Lukewarm baths will provide some relief, cooling and hydrating the skin, just keep it short (10 minutes) and avoid using any soaps or other bath additives that may irritate the condition. And moisturize immediately upon patting baby dry, while the baby’s skin is still damp.
Also, one thing to watch out for is scratching. As difficult as it will be to stop baby from scratching, as the eczema may be very itchy, you don’t want baby breaking the skin and opening up the possibility for an infection to flare up. So ensure baby’s nails are trimmed and perhaps even use cotton mittens to avoid this; if baby starts to exhibit any signs of infection, though, it’s off to the doctors and on to the antibiotics.
Topical steroid creams may be prescribed as well, particularly with more severe cases of eczema, but be cautious with these pharmacological treatments as they need careful supervision due to potential side effects.
Eczema usually fades as the child grows older and the condition will generally subside by the time the child reaches school age or, in more sever cases, by their teenage years. However, it is common to see relapses in eczema when the person is older that may last for a few weeks to months, so be ever-vigilant. While eczema – whether baby eczema or adult eczema – is generally not debilitating, it is usually a real annoyance especially when left unchecked, and the sooner you get it under control, the better.