Eczema in Babies: Everything You Need to Know
Cradle cap, neonatal acne, Epstein’s pearls, prickly pear, Baltz’s spots, diaper rash, and baby eczema are some of the most common conditions that can occur at a young age. For the most part, they aren’t a serious health problem, but they still cause some concern to parents. Eczema in babies is a type of rash that can appear a few weeks after birth or later. Although it can be uncomfortable, it usually improves as the baby grows. Let’s have a look at it in detail below.
The main symptoms of baby eczema usually appear frequently in the face area (especially on the cheeks and scalp), areas with folds (arms, legs or groin), and have the following characteristics:
- Rash and mild swelling
- Dry or damp skin
The baby may tend to be more agitated or tearful than usual because of the discomfort, but won’t usually have a fever, diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite, trouble breathing, or other alarming symptoms. If they do, contact the pediatrician immediately.
If there’s an infection, then pimples, blisters, or noticeable inflammation will be seen on the baby’s skin. However, these types of symptoms are rare.
- It’s important to pay attention to the evolution of the symptoms to inform the pediatrician.
- If breakouts tend to come and go frequently, it’s a good idea to take a picture of them to show your doctor.
- Most flare-ups usually resolve on their own within a few weeks.
- “Between 15 and 20% of infants suffer from eczema, but in 80% of cases these disappear between 3 and 6 years of age,” says Dr. Jaques Robert.
If the lesions break open (because the skin has become too dry, constant scratching, or other reasons), they may become infected. However, it should be clarified that baby eczema is not an infectious or contagious disease.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the causes of eczema in babies are problems in the skin barrier. Specifically, the scarcity or absence of a protein called filaggrin, which helps protect the skin from the environment.
- Skin barrier problems are often the result of both genetic and environmental factors.
- Although babies and children with eczema may have food allergies, they’re not the cause of eczema alone.
- It’s common for problems such as asthma, allergic rhinitis, hay fever, and seasonal allergies to occur along with eczema. In these cases, the hereditary component tends to predominate.
As often occurs in other skin reactions, some of the possible triggers of eczema may be the following:
- Extreme temperatures
- Abrasive materials in textiles such as clothing, blankets, towels, etc
To reach the diagnosis of eczema in babies, a physical examination and the information provided by the parents in the consultation is usually enough. In other words: the diagnosis is clinical, as it’s based on the signs and symptoms that the baby shows.
In some cases, the pediatrician may order some tests (such as a blood test, a stool test, allergy tests, etc.). They will do this especially in case of suspecting allergies, intolerances, or other health problems.
Treatment of eczema in babies can vary depending on the cause. However, to a greater extent, they all aim to alleviate discomfort.
As the experts in pediatric dermatology indicate, the treatment should include some permanent care. These should be “aimed at restoring the skin barrier and, therefore, at reducing outbreaks and improving the child’s quality of life by controlling itching.”
“Emollients provide a safe and effective method of improving the skin barrier because they provide the skin with a source of exogenous lipids, improving its barrier properties,” so says the Spanish Association of Pediatrics.
Other useful recommendations would be the following:
- Avoiding exposure to triggers.
- Giving the baby short baths with warm water and soap or gel, as recommended by the pediatrician.
- Applying a moisturizing or emollient cream several times a day all over the body.
Eczema shouldn’t be neglected
If you suspect that your baby has eczema, contact the pediatrician as soon as possible. In the meantime, avoid applying any over-the-counter remedies or products to your baby, as, even though their aim is to contribute to relief, they can be counterproductive in infants and young children.
Even when the outbreak subsides, it’s important to ask the doctor at their next check-up just to clear up any doubts. This, although it may not seem like it, could be useful even to reach an early diagnosis.
Currently, some parents take pictures of the outbreaks in order to have a clearer reference. However, it must be borne in mind that observation is still important, as it allows you to obtain data on the evolution of the problem.