What is Infant Eczema?

Pamela Pleasant

Infant eczema is a skin condition that affects infants and toddlers that presents as a blistering rash that is red and scaly, and shows up in patches on the skin. This rash can develop anywhere on the body, but it usually is found on the arms and legs around the joint areas and on the baby’s cheeks. Skin that surrounds the rash can also be dry and rough. Infant eczema is not a common skin condition and many babies outgrow it. There are lotions and over-the-counter medications that can lessen the symptoms of infant eczema.

Eczema is a red, itchy rash that can affect people of all ages.
Eczema is a red, itchy rash that can affect people of all ages.

There is no known cause for infant eczema. It is thought to be a reaction of the immune system brought on by certain soaps, detergents, or lotions. If either of the baby’s parents has suffered with eczema, the baby has a higher risk of acquiring infant eczema, because in most cases it is hereditary.

To avoid washing away protective oils, a baby's bath should not last more than ten minutes.
To avoid washing away protective oils, a baby's bath should not last more than ten minutes.

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Allergens are thought to trigger eczema, but heat combined with sweating can worsen this skin condition. Low humidity within the home can remove moisture from the skin and also trigger a severe reaction; stressful situations can cause reactions, as well. This can cause the child’s skin to experience flushing, which is a reddening of the skin. Flushing typically can be seen on the chest, neck, and face.

Cradle cap is another skin condition that affects infants. It can be confused with infant eczema, but there are significant differences. Cradle cap can be mainly seen on the scalp, eyebrows, and the sides of the nose — this sets it apart from other skin conditions. This condition also usually goes away within a matter of months.

A pediatrician can prescribe medicated lotions to lessen the itchy symptoms of infant eczema. These lotions also help to combat inflammation and redness. There are also numerous over-the-counter remedies available that can help to retain the moisture and hydrate the skin. Daily warm baths accompanied by an antihistamine can also ease and soothe the skin. Any lotions used typically should be fragrance and perfume free.

Babies who suffer with infant eczema need special care within the home. A baby typically should never bathe for more than ten minutes because it can remove the natural oils found in the skin. Using a minimal amount of soap and only cleansing the areas that are actually dirty can help minimize the chances of dry skin occurring. Oatmeal baths can also soothe the skin. Tight clothing or blankets that do not allow air circulation should not be used because they can worsen the itchy symptoms.

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