What are these red patches on my baby’s face? Could it be Eczema? Here’s what Infant eczema looks like, causes and natural remedies for the treatment.
Most babies are born with perfect, smooth, velvety skin that smells amazing and makes you want to touch them over and over again. But by two to three-month of age, some infants develop red patches that are dry and flaky affecting Cheeks, scalp, torso and extremities. Older children have more flare-ups on their hands, feet knees and elbows.
In this post, we will talk about everything that you want to know about Eczema in Infant.
- What is Eczema?
- How does Infant Eczema look like?
- What are the causes of Eczema?
- Natural Remedies to treat Infant eczema
- Can you prevent Eczema?
What is Eczema?
Eczema is one of the most common skin condition characterized by red, itchy and inflamed skin erupts between the ages of 2-3 months and up to 2 years of age, also can last longer.
There are several types of Eczema, but the most common in Infants is usually called atopic dermatitis. This type of Infant eczema often appears on the face, scalp and forehead.
The American Academy of Dermatology (source) states that atopic dermatitis affect up to 25% of children in the United States. In estimated 60% of cases, it develops in their first year of life and 90% develop it before age 5.
How does Infant Eczema look like?
Eczema in Infant shows at 2-3 month of age as a patch of red, dry skin and is always itchy and rough. Most often, eczema affects their cheeks and forehead. Also, Infants can get eczema anywhere on their body.
Older babies can get eczema on their knee and elbows. Toddler (2-5 years) can get eczema on their lips and ribs.
Often, parents confuse Infant eczema with cradle cap. Cradle cap is less red and scaly, usually appears on the scalp, eyelids, eyebrows and behind the ears.
What are the causes of Eczema?
Wondering, why your baby has Eczema in the first place? Unfortunately, there isn’t one known cause. Eczema is multifactorial disorder with genetic, environmental, immunity and skin barrier function playing key roles on its onset.
Babies with family history of eczema, allergies or asthma, are more likely to develop eczema. It is hereditary.
Skin Barrier function
Healthy skin act as a barrier to prevent moisture from going out and irritants from getting in. This skin barrier does not work well in infants who are prone to eczema. Broken skin barrier does not hold moisture well, allowing irritant to get in easily.
The immune system of the infants with eczema reacts strongly with irritants, making skin red and itchy. When skin is red and itchy, it can not be good skin barrier. It lets more irritants in casing cycle of itching, scratching and more itching making eczema worst.
In addition to above mentioned endogenous factors, exogenous factors affect future flare- ups. Most common factors are
It is more common during winter when homes are well heated, and air is dry. It can make a skin more itchy.
Irritants are found in products that we use every day. This include body soaps, shampoo, hair care products, perfumes, wool cloths and laundry soaps, and any other products that skin comes in contact with.
Irritants are also present in the air inside homes. Avoiding use of conventional air freshener, cleaning or replacing carpet, cleaning air duct regularly should help limit irritants around the house. Natural air purifying plants are better option to clean air inside the house.
Sweat can trigger eczema, making itching worse. Dressing baby lightly with breathable, soft, organic cloths rather than itchy wool or synthetic fabric should help.
Heat of the summer and bath can trigger eczema.
Excessive wetness can lead to eczema outbreak. Gently wipe off spits whenever you see it on baby’s chin, neck and lips.
Stress can trigger itching and scratching in children with eczema. It may not apply to infant.
Allergies to cow’s milk or other food such as peanuts, soy, eggs in mother’s diet can trigger eczema in breastfeeding infants. Breastfeeding mothers should avoid these foods to see if it is causing eczema in infant.
Infants with eczema often have more bacteria on their skin. It may not cause infection, but it can make skin more irritated and make the eczema worst.
Infants or children with eczema are more prone to develop skin infection. These secondary skin infections make eczema worst. Look out for signs for infection such as tenderness, swelling, fever or pus. Poorly controlled, moist areas of eczema in infant, may cause thrush (more information) to thrive in favorable environment.
How to treat Eczema in Infants?
There are so many products available in the market that claims to relieve the itching and redness of eczema. Unfortunately, most of the products are loaded with harmful chemicals that work as irritant to worsen the symptoms.
Eczema is multifactorial disorder and treating eczema requires achieving following treatment goals (source):
- Skin care maintenance
- Anti-inflammatory medication (This may not be necessary or appropriate for infants)
- Itch control
- Managing infectious triggers
Here’s how you can provide relief to your infant keeping these goals in mind.
Skin care maintenance:
This is the most important, as it can help repair broken skin barrier and maintain it in eczema prone Infants.
This is extremely important component to maintain skin hydration. Frequent moisturization alleviates the discomfort and helps to repair the skin barrier. There are several natural moisturizers that works to ease the discomfort. Moisturizers should be applied immediately after bath and apply several times a day daily.
Coconut oil is known for its moisturizing and anti-bacterial properties, which can help with dry skin and eczema. Research has shown its effectiveness over mineral oil in improving symptoms of eczema (source).
Virgin Sunflower Seed oil
Virgin sunflower seed oil has anti-inflammatory properties to help soothe itchy and inflamed eczema skin, improving skin hydration. This study shows the effectiveness of sunflower seed oil in improving skin hydration compared to olive oil (source).
Medicinal plant, Calendula officinalis L. (Marigold), have been used traditionally since centuries for treatment of skin conditions in human. This study shows its effectiveness in treating dermatitis along with rosemary cream (source).
Giving short bath (5-10 min) to Infant with lukewarm water, hydrates and cools the skin. It may help itching.
Stay away from any synthetic soaps, perfumed products or antibacterial soaps. It can be rough on baby’s sensitive skin.
Apply gentle cleansing agent/soap where your baby might be dirty/sweaty such as underarms, genital, hands, feet. Simply rinse off rest of the body.
It’s important to gently pat your baby dry after their bath. Immediately after bath, apply generous amount of moisturizer to lock the moisture in.
Always wash new cloth with mild, fragrance-free detergent before putting them on your baby.
Dress your baby lightly with loose cloths made of cotton to avoid irritation of clothing rubbing skin.
Avoid overdressing your infant, heat and perspiration can trigger an eczema flare.
Colloidal oatmeal bath
Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of colloidal oatmeal make them an effective moisturizer to ease the symptoms of eczema. Adding colloidal oatmeal to baby’s bath can help improve dryness, roughness and itching.
Add powdered colloidal oatmeal to warm bath and soak or make a paste mixing it with enough water as you need.
Rice starch bath
A daily Rice starch bath can decrease skin inflammation improving eczema and skin barrier function (source).
Rice starch in powder or formulated in a bath product can be used.
It is so hard for parents to stop babies from scratching the affected areas. It is the hardest part of eczema even worst at night. Scratching injures the skin allowing bacteria to enter and cause a secondary infection.
Following measures should be taken to minimize itching in Infants
- Trim their nails often and file it (don’t you think they grow too fast)
- Put scratch mittens on their hands all the times (eventually they will learn to take off by themselves…lol)
Managing infectious triggers
Products that you are using in your home or environmental factors (listed earlier) that come in direct contact with their skin may trigger your infant’s flare-up or make them worse.
Identifying, avoiding and managing triggers can help prevent future fare-ups in Infants.
Food Allergies and Eczema
Infants with eczema are at more risk than general population to develop food allergies.
There are certain foods that help ease the symptoms of eczema, while other triggers eczema flare-ups.
What foods triggers eczema flare-ups?
Certain inflammatory food such as cow’s milk is most common trigger for Infant eczema along with soy, nuts, fish, eggs, shellfish. In breastfeeding infant, mother should avoid consuming it.
Tomatoes, strawberry and citrus fruit can also trigger eczema.
If you are still not sure what food is causing symptoms in your infant, try elimination diet or consider allergy test (only mother).
What foods are good to eat when you have eczema?
Eating anti-inflammatory food may help reduce eczema symptoms. If you have introduced solid to your baby, consider adding these foods to your baby’s diet. If you are exclusively breastfeeding, including these foods in your diet.
Fish oil contains high level of omega-3 fatty acids, which is anti-inflammatory. Eating fatty fish, such as salmon and herring may be able to reduce symptoms. You may also consider taking omega-3 supplement.
Quercetin rich food
Quercetin is a plant-based flavonoid that gives fruits and vegetables their rich color. Its antioxidant and antihistamine properties may help reduce inflammation. Include quercetin-rich food like blueberries, cherries, spinach, kale in your baby’s diet.
If Infant has mild to moderate eczema, early introduction of allergenic food like cow’s milk, peanut and egg has been shown to decrease food allergy later in life. Consult your pediatrician’s suggestion before introducing allergenic food in baby’s diet (source).
Probiotic: Do they really help eczema?
A balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria in gut is essential for good health. Eczema patients have an imbalance of gut and skin flora. Taking probiotic orally can improve eczema, by balancing gut flora and decreasing inflammation. Probiotics for the treatment of eczema is currently not evidence based.
Including probiotic drops in baby’s diet may improve eczema. If not, it will help colic or reflux in babies.
Fermented food such as yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi helps to promote healthy gut. It should be included in mother’s diet, if you are exclusively breastfeeding.
Can you Prevent Infant Eczema?
Unfortunately, you can not prevent eczema in infant. As we know, Eczema is multifactorial disorder caused by variety of factors, no one thing guarantees your infant won’t develop eczema. However, making some lifestyle changes and avoiding environmental risk factor as mentioned earlier may reduce your Infant’s risk for eczema.
Here’s are few things that may reduce risk of developing eczema
If your Infant has a high risk of developing eczema, exclusively breastfeeding for first 4-5 months may reduce the risk.
Researcher has shown in this study that, breastfeeding a high-risk newborn reduced the infant’s chance of developing eczema (source).
Eating healthy diet
Eating healthy diet such as fish, fruits, vegetable and probiotics during pregnancy and breastfeeding may reduce the risk of developing eczema (source).
Get a Dog as a pet, not Cat
The eternal dispute about whether dog or cat is better as a pet may never end. But when it comes to reducing risk to eczema in infant, having a dog as a pet wins the race.
This study published in Journal of Pediatrics states that, having a dog in the house before high-risk child’s first birthday dramatically reduced the child’s risk of developing eczema compared to having a cat. On contrary having a cat, increased the risk of developing eczema (source).
When Should You See Doctor for Infant Eczema?
Eczema can be treated at home easily following aforementioned natural remedies. You should see pediatrician if
- Eczema patches spread quickly and infected
- Yellow or light brown crust or pus-filled blister on top on the eczema
- The natural remedies are not providing relief
Its just a phase
Eczema is a fairly common skin condition in infants. While it is upsetting to see your child suffer, but remember that eczema in infant in short-lived and most infants outgrow it. Symptoms of eczema can be managed with natural remedies and moisturizing Infant’s skin frequently.
How About You?
Did your infant have eczema? How did you treat it? Please let us know in comment below.