A lot of babies and young children will get a rash at some point, but eczema is an itchy rash, which encourages children to scratch and make it worse, meaning it can sometimes last for a number of years.
‘Eczema’ actually refers to a few different skin conditions that all cause the skin to become red, dry and irritated, and in a few cases, can cause small, fluid-filled bumps that become moist and ooze. The most common is ‘infantile eczema’, or to give it its technical name of atopic dermatitis.
‘Atopic’ actually refers to people that are overly sensitive to allergens in the environment. While eczema itself is not an allergy, allergies can trigger eczema. Children with eczema often have one or more relatives that suffer from conditions such as hay fever, asthma or other allergies leading to a still-unsubstantiated belief that it’s hereditary. Around half of children with eczema will also develop hay fever or asthma themselves.
What to do
Eczema in children and babies is common, so if your child does develop eczema it is nothing to worry about. It is so common that doctors don’t use the term eczema for babies, and there are many ways to deal with it and make it less painful and irritating for your child.
It is important to keep your child’s skin moisturized. Don’t just use the moisturizer you use on yourself though – use an non-perfumed emollient and apply it a few times a day, particularly when feeding your baby or changing its nappy. Using eczema cream or psoriasis cream is the best way to reduce irritation.
An important point to know is that you should apply the cream in downward strokes only, as rubbing it up and down can irritate the skin even further. If the eczema starts to get bad then you can use steroid creams, which are completely safe to use if prescribed by your doctor.
Steps for the home
There are also many ways that you can help around the home to reduce the chances of your child developing eczema. Dust mite faeces can often make eczema worse for a child so you need to try and remove these. Dust mites breed in thousands among bed sheets, soft toys and soft furnishings.
Make sure that you wash all of your bed linen at 60 degrees to kill as many dust mites as possible. Keep soft toys limited to a couple of favourites and wash these regularly by putting them in a plastic bag and adding them to your wash. You must also be very careful with the soaps and detergents you use: regular soap, bubble bath and detergents can all make your child’s condition worse, so avoid using them if you can.