Infant Eczema Triggers You May Not Know About
As a newly minted mom of an infant with eczema, I spent an inordinate amount of time searching the depths of the internet in an attempt to figure out what it was that was causing my son’s flare-ups. My research ranged from the more traditional articles and research reports to following hashtags on Instagram and scanning through Facebook comments on eczema-related posts. I may have also taken a deep dive into #eczema on TikTok, but that’s a story for another time.
Suffice it to say that if you have a child with eczema we likely read some of the same stuff:
- No fragrance, hypoallergenic, organic everything (detergent, soap, clothes, etc.)
- Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize
- Restrict diet to eliminate some of the usual suspects: dairy, egg, gluten, tree nuts, shellfish
- Avoid dry air and use a humidifier in baby’s room
While I’m very happy for the parents who saw improvement in their child’s skin by following the above, I (along with countless others) don’t belong to that group. Deeper searches yielded other anecdotal advice, some worth trying and some not so much and I was left to figure it out on my own. I tested what must have been at least three dozen different moisturizing products, countless skincare management routines and dietary changes. I knew that I was missing something and I was furious that the articles available to me told me to focus on “locking in moisturize” as if I hadn’t thought of that myself already.
Now before you read any further, here’s my obligatory disclaimer: I am not a healthcare professional so please consult with one before trying any treatments or making changes to your child’s diet. Remember that every eczema baby is different and what’s causing your baby’s condition is unique to them.
Throughout my research, I consulted with specialists from a variety of fields: homeopathy, acupuncture, naturopathy and traditional medicine in an attempt to uncover the “it” factor that was the culprit for my son. In doing so, I compiled a list of eczema triggers that aren’t commonly talked about (at least in the research that I’ve done).
Sugar - I recommend spending some time researching the connection between gut health and atopic dermatitis, but to save you some time, a growing body of research is pointing to candida overgrowth in the gut (and on the skin) as a common culprit for eczema patients. Candida is a yeast commonly occuring in our systems. It can be thrown off balance by antibiotic use, stress, and a number of other factors and what’s important to note here is that candida overgrowth in the mother can potentially be passed down to the baby in utero - how lovely. So why sugar? If you bake (which I do poorly), you know that yeast looooves sugar. Not just sugar from a packet, or in the form of maple syrup, but naturally occurring sugar in fruits and berries. Look up anti-candida diets and talk to your doctor about it - remember that what mama eats (or drinks - Candida looooves red wine sugars!) gets passed down to breast-fed baby.
Yeast - This is an odd one, but if you’ve read my quick summary on Candida above then it should feel intuitive that adding more yeast to yeast is not going to help. Unfortunately, yeast (as I’ve found out) is a very common ingredient so be vigilant about your nutritional labels and if you’re vegan, stay away from nutritional yeast.
Heat - You may have read that using a heater in wintertime might dry out the air and cause your child’s eczema to flare - that is indeed very true. However, if you think about your child’s fragile skin and the bacteria party that’s currently happening there, you can imagine that any activity or factor that raises the temperature of the skin can adversely contribute to the issue. Think of how hot your skin gets from prolonged direct sunlight exposure or from physical activity and see if you can trace your child’s flare-up to simply being overheated. In our case, I hadn’t realized that my son generated a lot of body heat while sleeping so the recommended TOG rating for his room temperature was not ideal for his eczema. Through some trial and error we were able to pinpoint an ideal combination of clothing to help him stay cool throughout the night.
Stress - Ever notice that when your baby is upset or crying they tend to itch more? Likewise, when something is off in their system (a stomach bug, teething, etc.) their eczema flares up? It should come as no surprise that stress in adults often manifests itself as an eczema flare-up, so it’s reasonable to deduct that the same might be true for some young children. I knew my son was teething before I ever saw a tooth coming because his face would break out in a rash (on the exact cheek where the expectant tooth was).
Smoke - You may or may not have known that cigarette smoke is a common trigger for eczema flare-ups, but less obvious (to me at least) is smoke of any kind including that of a campfire or fireplace. I learned this one the hard way when a perfectly calm night turned into an itchy frenzy after my son spent ten minutes in front of a wood-burning firepit.
Again, consult with your doctor about any of these factors and watch your baby closely as they come across each of these triggers to see if any of them contribute to the problem. Remember that it could be a combination of factors that’s causing your child’s skin to react so formulate a plan for testing and learning. Mostly importantly, don’t be discouraged if solving your child’s eczema problem feels a bit like a game of whack-a-mole. Unfortunately, it’s part of the journey.
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