What is Eczema?

Eczema is a skin condition that affects many babies and small children. It leaves the skin red and itchy and although it is not a dangerous condition, it can make a baby pretty uncomfortable!

Another name for eczema is atopic dermatitis.

How do you Know if a Baby has Eczema?

Babies who have eczema can have a lot of signs and symptoms, including:

  • Skin that is red and appears to be itchy
  • Brown, gray or red patches of skin on hands and wrists, feet and ankles, and may also be found on the chest, back of the neck, eyelids and eyebrow area and also in the creases of the elbows and the knees
  • Babies, in particular, may present with such patches on face and scalp

Does Anything Make Eczema Worse?

There are a lot of things that can make a baby’s eczema worse. These are called triggers and they can include:

  • Scratching (babies can sometimes scratch their skin to the point where it bleeds)
  • Bacterial infections that can happen if the skin gets broken from scratching.
  • Skin that gets really dry.
  • Stress
  • Changes in the weather, especially the heat and humidity
  • Dyes, fragrances, and other ingredients found in soaps, lotions, detergents and cleaners
  • Wool clothing or blankets
  • Dust and pollen
  • Certain foods, possibly including eggs, milk, nuts, soy products, fish, and wheat
  • Being around somebody who smokes
  • Being in an area where there is a lot of air pollution

You’ve probably noticed that this list is pretty long! That is one of the reasons why it can be difficult to keep a baby away from the trigger.  And sometimes even find out what the triggers are can be really hard, as each baby will have different things that seem to make their eczema worse.

Do You Have to See the Doctor if You have Eczema?

Many times, parents can take care of their baby’s eczema at home. However, there are times when it is a good idea to go in to see the doctor.  This is especially true if:

  • Eczema has just appeared and parents are not sure of what it is.
  • The baby appears uncomfortable, irritable or fussy.
  • The itchiness is interfering with sleep and other everyday activities
  • At-home remedies are not helping eczema to go away.
  • The eczema is around the baby’s eyes and parents are worried that the baby’s vision might be affected.

What Causes Eczema?

The fact is that doctors don’t know why some babies get eczema and other don’t. However, they do have some educated guesses.

One theory is that eczema is caused by a difference in a baby’s genes that can affect the skin and how well it is able to fend things off from the environment.  Another is that some babies just have a problem with dry, irritated skin.  Bacteria which live on the skin (even after a shower!) might also play a part, as they can develop a film that blocks off sweat glands and can cause the skin to become inflamed or irritated.

Who is at Risk for Eczema?

In theory, any baby can get eczema. However, in some babies this is more likely to happen due to things called risk factors, which make it more likely that someone will get a certain condition. The risk factors for eczema include:

  • The family history of eczema. This means that your mom or dad or grandma and grandpa might have had this problem, too.
  • Living in the city or an area where there are a lot of factories. This is because these areas tend to have more air pollution, which is a common trigger for many babies with this condition.
  • Being African American. Doctors don’t know why, but children with an African heritage are more likely to get eczema.
  • Babies who go to day care are also more likely to develop this condition.
  • Babies who are later diagnosed with ADHD are more likely to get eczema as well.

Are there Complications from Eczema?

A complication is something that can make somebody’s condition worse or harder for doctors to treat. The complications from eczema include:

  • Having other things wrong, such as asthma or allergies
  • Neurodermatitis, a condition which can also cause the skin to become red and itchy.
  • Skin infections from bacteria, viruses and fungi.
  • Eye problems
  • Allergic contact dermatitis, which can also cause redness and itching
  • Sleep and behavior problems.

How Do You Treat Eczema?

Fortunately, there are a lot of ways to treat eczema that will help a baby’s skin get back to normal. These treatments include:

  • Special skin creams to stop itching and allow the skin to heal; these creams will have to be prescribed by the baby’s doctor.
  • Antibiotic pills if a baby has developed a skin infection.
  • Antihistamine pills. An antihistamine tamps down the signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction – including red, itchy or irritated skin. It can be very helpful for babies and, because it makes them drowsy, parents often give this pill at night to help them sleep.
  • Identifying a baby’s triggers and then avoiding them.
  • Keeping the skin moisturized with a lotion or cream.
  • Calamine lotion, which goes directly onto the skin and can help with some of the discomfort and itchings.
  • Using a humidifier the home to keep the air moist.
  • Warm baths to soothe the baby’s skin.

So eczema may look a little funny sometimes but overall it is not considered to be dangerous and many, many other babies go through this as well!