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Understanding eczema in babies

Kiindred

Kiindred

Brought to you by the Kiindred Editors. Our team are committed to researching and writing on all the things we know you will want to know about, at each stage of your pregnancy and parenthood journey.
Created on Sep 27, 2023 · 4 mins read
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Eczema in babies is a commonly occurring skin condition in newborns. It can often prove to be a source of frustration but most infants do tend to outgrow it over time. Typically, the signs of eczema begin to manifest between the ages of two to four months, characterised by the emergence of red, dry patches on the skin.


As a parent, it’s natural to feel concerned when confronted with your newborn’s eczema symptoms. The affected areas may become inflamed, leading to discomfort and distress for your little one. You might also observe your child itching and scratching excessively, which can further exacerbate the condition. It’s important to address newborn eczema symptoms quickly to ease the discomfort and prevent potential complications, such as infection or prolonged skin irritation.

What is newborn eczema?


First, if you’re a bit confused about what eczema is exactly, it’s a condition of recurrent rashes that pop up on the skin appearing as inflamed, cracked, red, and dry patches. They are usually due to irritation or allergy. It tends to be very itchy and uncomfortable, but not harmful or contagious.

There are two main kinds of eczema your little one might be facing:

1. Contact dermatitis

The rash shows up when the skin comes into contact with an irritant and goes away when you get rid of the substance.

2. Atopic dermatitis

The rash is inherited from other family members’ eczema, allergies, or asthma.

Causes of eczema in newborns

Understanding the triggers that exacerbate eczema can greatly aid in managing the condition effectively. Identifying and minimising exposure to these triggers can help reduce the frequency and severity of eczema flare-ups, allowing your child’s skin to heal and regain its natural radiance. Additionally, consulting a healthcare professional or dermatologist can provide valuable guidance on suitable skincare routines and appropriate moisturizers to soothe and protect your newborn’s delicate skin.

Eczema typically comes from inherited dry and sensitive skin. Food allergies, especially to cow’s milk, can also cause irritation. Otherwise, flare-ups will happen when their skin comes into contact with irritants such as:

  • Wool
  • Animal/animal hair
  • Pollens
  • Bath products (soap especially)
  • Dry air – use a humidifier!
  • Foods
  • Dust

What are the signs of eczema in newborns?


You’ll most likely be able to tell immediately if your baby has eczema as patches will start to show up on your little one’s body. At first, they might appear on their cheeks, scalps, and behind their ears. Slowly, if left untreated, the patches could start moving down to the elbows and on the backs of their knees. On top of that, if you notice them scratching their skin incessantly, it is pretty clear they may be suffering from some itchy blotches. Tiny pimples filled with liquid might also show up on top of the patches.


What should I do if my newborn has eczema?


Treating eczema quickly is key. Leaving it to become more inflamed or irritated will cause your child to keep scratching and spread it further. Some things to start doing are:

  • Bathing daily with lukewarm water (although in some extreme cases, your doctor might recommend bathing less)
  • Using plenty of gentle moisturiser (fragrance-free)
  • Avoiding irritants like synthetic fabrics or soaps
  • Keep their nails short to stop them from scratching too much or put mittens on their hands
  • Make sure they stay cool and moisture-free – being wet for too long can trigger inflammation

Can it be prevented?


There is no sure-fire way to prevent eczema as it can be inherited or due to natural irritants. However, you can keep them as moisturised and their skin as dry as possible to avoid breakouts. Noticing any small irritations to fabrics or soaps can help you mitigate the problem early. Other than that, babies often tend to grow out of it with age.

If you’re concerned about their eczema or your baby is extremely uncomfortable or you feel like it is getting worse, you should speak with your doctor. They may be able to prescribe medication to help ease the discomfort.

Are some babies more prone to eczema?


Some babies are more prone to eczema than others due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. If there is a family history of eczema, asthma, hay fever, or other allergic conditions, the likelihood of a baby developing eczema increases. Research suggests that certain genetic variations can affect the skin’s barrier function, making it more susceptible to moisture loss and external irritants, leading to the development of eczema.

While some babies may be predisposed to eczema, it does not necessarily mean they will develop the condition. Conversely, some babies with no family history of eczema can still develop it. Each baby is unique, and the development of eczema can vary from child to child.

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