Infant atopic dermatitis: What to do if your child has baby eczema?
Arguably one of the hardest parts of parenthood is navigating your child’s health concerns—especially at a young age. This part of the parenting journey is not often talked about and can be a lonely place for parents who are having to figure out how to help their child with a chronic medical condition.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, it is estimated that up to 25 percent of children in the United States are affected by atopic dermatitis, one of the more common forms of eczema. There is a great deal of variability in the severity of this condition from child to child, with some cases manifesting themselves as occasional itchy or red patches and others requiring multiple hospitalizations due to infections and other symptoms of eczema exacerbation.
But what is eczema and how can you help your child manage this chronic condition? Let’s get into it.
What does atopic dermatitis look like?
Most commonly, early onset eczema, also known as baby eczema, presents itself as:
- Dry skin
- Rashes and scaly patches
- Weepiness of the skin
- Skin infections
Eczema can show up anywhere on the body, but is most commonly found in the diaper area, the creases and folds, baby’s face and hair area (also known as cradle cap).
What causes my child’s eczema?
According to the National Eczema Association, atopic dermatitis results from an overreactive immune system that causes the skin barrier to become dry and itchy. Atopic dermatitis is also linked to gut health, allergies, environmental triggers and genetic markers. There is some research that indicates that a deficiency in a protein called filaggrin (which helps maintain moisture in your skin) can lead to drier and itchier skin. Sadly, if any family members have a history of atopic dermatitis, your child might be at a higher risk of developing eczema.
It’s important to know that every child is different and the cause of their eczema is unique to them.
However, there are some common triggers for kids with this condition. These include:
- Harsh irritants like bleach and other chemicals used in the home
- Harsh soaps and detergents
- Moisturizers, lotions and ointments that have common allergens (ie coconut)
- Food allergies
- Environmental allergies (ie hay fever)
- Laundry detergents and fabric softeners with harsh additives
- Certain fragrances in the home
- Dust and dust mites
- Pet dander
- Dry air
A pediatric healthcare professional like an allergist can help you determine if you child has any specific allergies so that you can eliminate them from your child’s environment or diet. They can also prescribe a medication or recommend an over-the-counter antihistamine that can help your child navigate any environmental factors that contribute to their inflammation.
What can you do to treat your child’s atopic dermatitis?
There are different schools of thought when it comes to the treatment of eczema in babies.
Traditional medicine leverages antihistamines to reduce the effect of allergies and topic steroid creams to reduce the inflammation on the skin. In cases of infection, antibiotics are applied topically or given orally to manage the condition. The amount of medication your child will need will depend on the severity of their skin condition. You should consult with your pediatrician or a specialist like a pediatric dermatologist to outline a medication plan that is appropriate for your child.
Holistic medicine leverages herbs, homeopathy, acupuncture and other methods to address inflammation in the body and heal the skin barrier. There are, anecdotally, many accounts of parents who find success with these methods and are able to bring their children’s eczema into remission or heal it altogether without the use of medications like steroids. However, these methods are less studied in controlled environments and therefore, difficult to compare against traditional medicine.
What both schools of thought tend to agree on is establishing a good skin care routine is vital. This includes:
- Bathing baby with fragrance-free soaps and shampoo
- Applying a clean moisturizer or petroleum jelly immediately after bath
- Keeping baby’s skin safe with mittens or mittened pajamas, especially at night.
Whether your eczema baby is in the middle of a flare-up or if their condition is managed but their sensitive skin needs a bit more support, picking a pajama that can help keep their skin safe at night is of utter importance. Excessive scratching can lead to infections and skin can take a long time to heal, so preventing this by making sure baby’s hands are snuggly tucked away for the night will help both you and baby sleep soundly. Tiny Leopards pajamas are constructed out of thick, buttery modal and have retractable mittens that can make it easy for you to go from play time to sleep time.
When will my child’s eczema go away?
The truth is—it depends on your child. We know that’s not easy to read.
The severity of your child’s atopic eczema will be the determinant for how long you as a parent will be battling it and what ultimately causes eczema in your child. Whether you start with a topical corticosteroids treatment for your child’s eczema rash or something else, you and your pediatric healthcare professional will be able to tell what’s working and what isn’t so that you can adjust.
Most importantly, don’t be afraid to advocate for your child with their clinician. And finally, if your child’s eczema is severe, take care of your own mental and physical health while you find a treatment that works for them.
Tiny Leopards is a children's pajama and apparel company catering to babies with eczema and sensitive skin. We design our products with the utmost care, knowing firsthand that parents of eczema children rely on quality products to keep their kiddos safe. Our heartfelt mission is to continue bringing this community together and empowering it with products and resources to help endure the eczema journey.