An irritated baby with itchy skin can make you feel quite helpless. Eczema or atopic dermatitis is common in babies, often making an appearance within a few months of birth. Babies with this condition have less body oils and their skin’s barrier function is compromised. Moisture, therefore, evaporates easily from the skin, causing cells to shrink and cracks to develop. Irritants and allergens then have easy access and cause inflammation. Red, crusty patches of skin, scaling, and itching follow – classic signs of eczema that you may have come to dread.
Various factors such as viral infections, dust mites, and even teething can trigger eczema. This condition is more common in children with a family history of allergies. Food allergies may also have a role – in around 10% of babies, foods such as eggs, milk, chocolate, or peanuts work as a trigger.12
Eczema is a chronic condition though some children do outgrow it. While there is no cure for eczema yet, there are plenty of measures that can ease symptoms and reduce chances of another flare-up. Let’s take a look at what you can do to help ease this condition in your baby.
Using a moisturizer can help keep your baby’s skin from drying out. Use an unperfumed moisturizer several times a day. For instance, you might want to apply it after you change or feed them. It’s best to use downward strokes (in the direction of hair growth) to apply the moisturizer as this can prevent it from blocking skin pores. Also, steer clear of aqueous creams. Some research indicates that it can lead to stinging, itching, burning, and redness.
2. Apply Coconut Oil
Certain Southeast Asian communities traditionally give babies massages with coconut oil. And here’s why you should consider this practice if your baby has eczema. One study found that when parents applied virgin coconut oil twice daily – once immediately after a warm bath and then again at night – for 8 weeks, it resulted in a 68% improvement in eczema. This was 30% better than treating the babies with mineral oil.
If you suspect eczema or spot its symptoms in your baby, be sure to see a doctor for a confirmed diagnosis. It’s also important to keep your doctor informed about any natural or alternative remedies you’re likely to try.
Coconut oil can also be used as a moisturizer to help keep your baby’s skin from drying out. Another reason to check out coconut oil? Research indicates that massaging with it can improve growth and weight gain in premature babies. Do keep in mind, though, that some babies may be allergic to coconut oil. So, it’s always best to rule out an allergy with a patch test before use.3 4
3. Massage With Sunflower Seed Oil
Another natural oil that can help with eczema is sunflower oil. Research shows that sunflower oil improves the barrier function of the skin. In one study of babies at high risk of developing eczema, parents were advised to apply sunflower seed oil on their baby’s entire body at least once daily. This was done as soon as possible after birth but within a maximum of 3 weeks and was to be continued till the baby hit the 6-month milestone. It was found that sunflower seed oil had a protective effect and reduced the incidence of this condition at the 6-month mark.5 In the study, parents were also told not to use potential irritants like fragrant soap, bubble baths, or even bath oils and were to stick to a mild, fragrance-free cleanser.
4. Soothe Skin With Oats
Adding some colloidal oats to the bathwater can help ease inflammation and itching for your little one.6 When oats is mixed with water, it turns into a gooey substance that coats the skin and protects it from moisture loss. 7 This is due to the presence of gluten. As a bonus, oats is also rich in antioxidants that can fight inflammation.
5. Add Rice Water To The Bath
Rice water is the starchy water obtained when rice is boiled. It can improve the barrier function of skin, prevent the loss of moisture, and even help repair damaged skin. According to a study, participants who soaked in a bath to which rice water had been added saw a 20% improvement in the healing capacity of dry and irritated skin.8 Soothe your baby’s skin by adding some rice water to their bath. Rinse gently with plain water after the bath.
6. Try Chamomile Oil
Chamomile is great for soothing inflamed skin.9 One study even found that a cream with extracts from the Manzana chamomile was better than a hydrocortisone cream at treating people with eczema.10 German chamomile can also help ease irritated skin. Sesquiterpene compounds like azulene, bisabolol, and farnesene present in this soothing plant have anti-inflammatory properties and may account for its beneficial properties.11
Mix in 5 to 10 drops of chamomile oil or some dried chamomile flowers in the baby’s bathwater for relief from itching and dryness.12 But do remember to do a patch test to rule out any allergic reaction.
7. Give Probiotics To Deal With Food Allergies
As we saw earlier, food allergies may work as a trigger for some children with eczema. And tackling them can help ease the condition. The intestinal flora of children with allergies differs from those who do not have allergies. Treatment with beneficial bacteria or probiotics can, therefore, help tackle eczema linked to food allergies. According to a study, babies with food allergies experienced an easing of skin allergy symptoms when they were given the probiotic bacteria Lactobacillus GG.13 Fermented foods such as yogurt may naturally contain probiotics but make sure you check labels to see if they have the beneficial strain. And do consult a doctor before you use probiotic supplements.
8. Avoid Heat And Sweat
Heat and sweat can make eczema worse. So keep your baby’s room cool and avoid overdressing them.
9. Use Anti-Scratch Mittens
Eczema can be really itchy. And while older children may understand that scratching can damage their skin and worsen eczema, you’ll need to take a couple of pre-emptive measures with your baby. Keeping itchy areas covered with light clothing and keeping their nails clean and short can help reduce any damage if they do scratch. Anti-scratch mittens can also prevent them from scratching.14
10. Minimize Contact With Irritants
Aside from natural remedies, some preventive care can also help ease eczema. For instance, many commonly found irritants can make things worse for your baby. Here are a few tips on how you can keep them at arm’s length:
- An allergic reaction to dust mites can worsen eczema. Since these organisms and their feces can accumulate on soft toys, you’ll need to make sure that they’re clean. Wash your child’s toys at 60°C or place them in the freezer for 24 hours in a plastic bag weekly to get rid of mites. Bed linen should also be washed at 60°C to clear out mites.
- Certain fabrics may irritate your baby’s skin. Keep to breathable and friendly fabrics like cotton and avoid nylon or wool. If your baby has started crawling, dress them in cotton trousers so that they don’t rub against the carpet.
- Avoid bubble baths and soaps as they can irritate and dry out the skin. Choose a mild, fragrance-free cleanser instead.
- Identify other irritants that could be troubling your baby and limit contact with them. Common irritants include animal dander, cigarette smoke, and chemical sprays.15
|↑1||Eczema in children: 7 tips to stop the itch. National Health Service.|
|↑2||Eczema – babies and children. Government of South Australia.|
|↑3||Evangelista, Mara Therese Padilla, Flordeliz Abad‐Casintahan, and Lillian Lopez‐Villafuerte. “The effect of topical virgin coconut oil on SCORAD index, transepidermal water loss, and skin capacitance in mild to moderate pediatric atopic dermatitis: a randomized, double‐blind, clinical trial.” International journal of dermatology 53, no. 1 (2014): 100-108.|
|↑4||Coconut oil. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑5||Simpson, Eric L., Joanne R. Chalmers, Jon M. Hanifin, Kim S. Thomas, Michael J. Cork, WH Irwin McLean, Sara J. Brown, Zunqiu Chen, Yiyi Chen, and Hywel C. Williams. “Emollient enhancement of the skin barrier from birth offers effective atopic dermatitis prevention.” Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 134, no. 4 (2014): 818-823.|
|↑6||Fowler Jr, Joseph F. “Colloidal oatmeal formulations and the treatment of atopic dermatitis.” Journal of drugs in dermatology: JDD 13, no. 10 (2014): 1180-3.|
|↑7||Bedi, Monica K., and Philip D. Shenefelt. “Herbal therapy in dermatology.” Archives of dermatology 138, no. 2 (2002): 232-242.|
|↑8||De Paepe, Kristien, Jean-Pierre Hachem, Els Vanpee, Diane Roseeuw, and Vera Rogiers. “Effect of rice starch as a bath additive on the barrier function of healthy but SLS-damaged skin and skin of atopic patients.” Acta dermato-venereologica 82, no. 3 (2002): 184-186.|
|↑9||Eczema(Atopic Dermatitis). National Institutes of Health.|
|↑10||Patzelt-Wenczler, R., and E. Ponce-Pöschl. “Proof of efficacy of Kamillosan (R) cream in atopic eczema.” European journal of medical research 5, no. 4 (2000): 171-175.|
|↑11||Lee, Soon-Hee, Yong Heo, and Young-Chul Kim. “Effect of German chamomile oil application on alleviating atopic dermatitis-like immune alterations in mice.” Journal of veterinary science 11, no. 1 (2010): 35-41.|
|↑12||German chamomile. Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.|
|↑13||Viljanen, Mirva, E. Savilahti, Tari Haahtela, Kaisu Juntunen‐Backman, Riitta Korpela, T. Poussa, T. Tuure, and M. Kuitunen. “Probiotics in the treatment of atopic eczema/dermatitis syndrome in infants: a double‐blind placebo‐controlled trial.” Allergy 60, no. 4 (2005): 494-500.|
|↑14||Atopic eczema. National Health Service.|
|↑15||Eczema in babies and young children. National Health Service.|