Let’s face it. An itchy baby is a fussy baby… and no one wants to see their child in discomfort. To help ease your parenting stress (or maybe even ‘distress’), let us first say that baby eczema is both common and treatable — and, in fact, most babies will outgrow it.
But while you’re trying to find immediate relief for your itchy baby’s eczema, here are some of our top tips to help you manage symptoms and flare-ups. Also, you want to be sure that red rash is really baby eczema (also known as infant eczema) and get at the root cause of their frustrating skin condition.
We’re breaking down everything you need to know to start the process of finding relief for your baby ASAP, from how to identify it, understanding potential causes or exacerbating factors, and a few trusted and proven ways to help treat it. Here’s everything you need to know:
What Causes Eczema in Babies?
It’s completely natural to wonder why your baby has this itchy, frustrating skin condition. As with adult eczema, the exact cause of newborn eczema in little ones is unknown and the types of eczema can vary. Eczema can develop due to a combination of genetics and environmental factors. We also know that children who have a family history of eczema, asthma, or seasonal allergies are more likely to develop eczema. It’s also thought that problems with the skin barrier and an imbalance of bacteria in the skin microbiome could be at play.
Baby Eczema Risk Factors
Babies may be at increased risk of developing eczema if they:
- have a family history of eczema, allergies, asthma, or hay fever
- have existing food allergies
- have been exposed to environmental allergens, skin irritants, and tobacco smoke
- have a filaggrin gene mutation that impairs the skin barrier and makes it harder for the skin to retain moisture
- were delivered via cesarian section. Children that pass through the birth canal receive a bacterial transfer that colonizes the skin microbiome and reduces eczema risk.
How Eczema can Develop Over Time in Infants
The average onset for baby eczema is at three months, though it can occur at any time before age two. Babies generally develop eczema on their cheeks, and it can progress to the forehead, scalp, and chin. Baby eczema can appear wet and weepy. Babies ages 6-12 months can develop eczema on their elbows and knees. Eczema in toddlers can occur on the hands, ankles, and creases of the elbows and knees.
What Does Baby Eczema Look Like?
Infant eczema, like adult eczema, appears as patches of red, dry, flaky skin. Eczema can show up anywhere on your baby’s skin, but it is most common on the cheeks or in the creases of the elbows and knees.
It sounds pretty straightforward, but sometimes eczema is confused with other common baby skin conditions like cradle cap and neonatal or infant acne, so let’s take a look at how they differ:
Baby Eczema vs. Cradle Cap
Cradle cap is another common condition that can cause flaking skin, so it’s important to be able to distinguish between eczema and cradle cap. Luckily, if you take a look at the color and location of your baby’s dry skin, you should have no problem identifying the correct condition.
Eczema typically appears red and pink, while cradle cap results in white or yellow flakes. Cradle cap also typically occurs on the scalp, behind the ears, on the eyelids and eyebrows, or on the sides of the baby’s nose.
Baby Eczema vs. Baby Acne
20% of newborns have neonatal acne, which is a type of acne that typically develops around two weeks of age. As with eczema, baby acne causes red, sensitive skin. However, instead of flaky, dry patches, neonatal acne appears as little red bumps or white pimples, commonly on the face, neck, chest, or back.
Neonatal acne also appears before a baby is 6 weeks old, while eczema typically begins between ages 3 and 6 months. If you believe your child is suffering from acne after six weeks of age, be sure to see the pediatrician or a pediatric dermatologist.
At-Home Baby Eczema Treatment
Once you’ve determined your child’s red, itchy rash is eczema vs. other skin conditions, there are steps you can take to help soothe the skin and minimize flare-ups. These treatments hold true for any baby’s eczema, regardless of where it’s occurring on their body, be it their face, neck, or arms and legs.
As you probably know from your own experience with dry skin and rashes, scratching only makes things worse. When your baby scratches their eczema, they put themselves at risk for infection. That’s why it’s important to keep their nails trimmed and filed and prevent scratching as much as you can.
You may want to try onesies or shirts with built-in mittens to cover your little one’s fingers that reduce their ability to scratch. Most parents find that traditional baby mittens are too easy for the baby to pull off and pose a choking hazard. While using clothing with built-in mittens, you can rest assured the covering will stay snuggly on your baby’s hands.
Keep Your Baby Cool
Both heat and sweat can contribute to eczema flare-ups and make your baby’s itching worse. Avoid overusing blankets and dress your little one in breathable cotton clothing.
You may also want to keep bath time short and only use lukewarm water to keep their body temperature cool.
Moisturizing immediately after your baby takes a bath is one of the most important steps in managing eczema symptoms. You’ll want to choose a fragrance-free cream or ointment and apply several times throughout the day — including but not limited to right after bath time.
Gladskin's Eczema Cream for Babies and Kids is a gently formulated eczema treatment that's safe for babies ages 3 months and up.
But it goes far beyond just moisturizing…
Our Eczema Cream for Babies and Kids addresses one of the most under-talked-about contributors to eczema: bacteria imbalances in the skin microbiome.
Using endolysin Micreobalance® (our patented smart protein), Gladskin’s Eczema Cream works naturally with the skin to restore balance among the good and bad bacteria. As a result, four out of five users experienced reduced redness and itching! And using Gladskin every day, even without a flare, has been shown to keep the itchies at bay.
Be Cautious of Over-Using OTC Steroids
Over-the-counter medications like hydrocortisone creams or ointments that target eczema or inflammation can lead to thinning the skin where the product is applied if used too often. Always check the packaging for instructions regarding proper use.
Side effects like this are why we recommend using a product like our Eczema Cream for Babies and Kids. You can use as much of our product as you’d like without the risk of skin thinning or other side effects.
Identify Your Baby’s Triggers: Things That Can Make Infant Eczema Even Worse
Eczema is often exacerbated by environmental factors, some of which can be minimized to help reduce flare-ups. Potential triggers of your baby’s eczema could be:
- Clothing materials — Wool is a major irritant. Nylon and acrylic materials may also irritate.
- Soaps — Harsh soaps and bath products (like bubbles) can dry the skin or contain irritating fragrances. Avoid laundry products with fragrance also.
- Common allergens — Common allergies seen in children with eczema include dust mites, pet dander, and grass pollen.
- Foods — Some experts may recommend cutting out common allergens such as cow’s milk or peanuts from your diet if you are currently breastfeeding. If you suspect food may be playing a role in the health of your baby’s skin, consult with your pediatrician or a pediatric dietician.
- Excessive heat — Exposing your baby to heat to the point that they’re sweating can cause or further inflame an eczema flare-up. This can be especially difficult to avoid in the hot summer months, but keeping an umbrella and hand-held fan on hand can help.
When to Call Your Doctor
Home treatments for baby eczema should help to reduce their symptoms, and you’ll likely receive the same general advice from your family doctor or pediatrician. However, if you’re finding that your baby’s eczema isn’t getting better or still causing them discomfort within a week or two after starting at-home treatment, it’s possible that a prescription medication might be needed.
Another instance in which you should call your doctor is if you notice that your baby’s eczema becomes yellowish, light brown, or has blisters on top of the affected area. This might be a sign of a bacterial infection, which requires antibiotics.
The Path to Treating Baby Eczema
Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to eczema, but by better understanding the skin condition and its underlying causes, you can help soothe your baby’s eczema. And always remember: you’re not alone on this journey. In fact, parents just like you are opening up about their frustrations with infant eczema and how they finally helped their babies stop itching.