Baby lying on a bed

Eczema in babies and toddlers

When babies and toddlers suffer from eczema, it’s not only painful and distressing for them but also an incredibly stressful and difficult experience for parents. It’s so difficult to see your little one suffer, as itchiness and discomfort disrupt their general mood and their sleep patterns. Luckily, there are steps you can take to provide relief to you baby or toddler

Symptoms in babies and toddlers

Baby with eczema on its ankle

Eczema normally shows up as a red, itchy rash and can lead to dry, flaky and even cracked skin. In babies, eczema most often starts on the forehead, cheeks, chin or thighs, as early as the first few months after birth. In children over two years old, it most often occurs in folds of skin such as the elbows, behind the knees and ears, as well as on wrists, ankles and hands.

Causes

Eczema is a very common skin disease, affecting up to 20% of children in the world1. Even so, the causes of eczema are unknown, though there are a number of factors that likely contribute.

Young children’s skin, especially babies’ skin, is more sensitive to environmental influences than that of adults so external, or environment factors, often contribute. Irritants ranging from wool or synthetic fabrics, excessive heat or soaps – even drool around a baby’s face – can all contribute. Genetics are also a factor, with research showing that children are more likely to develop eczema if they have siblings or parents who suffer from it2.

A third factor is allergies which can include food allergies or allergies to external sources such as household pets, dust mints or pollen.

How to treat your little one's eczema

Many of the same recommendations that apply to adults apply to babies or toddlers with eczema, however, because your little one’s skin is particularly delicate, we recommend visiting a healthcare professional who can recommend the best steps to take to help you and your child. In the meantime here are some general information and suggestions that you may find useful.

Mum massaging baby

Daily bathing in warm water (never hot water) for several minutes will help cleanse your baby’s skin and avoid infection3. Immediately after bathing, it’s very important moisturise the skin and then to keep it moisturised throughout the day – moisturisers, emollients in particular, can help reduce symptoms such as keeping itchiness at bay4.

TOP TIP: Adding oatmeal to your baby or toddler’s bath can help soothe the skin.

Preventing scratching is important – scratching exacerbates eczema as it damages the top layer of the skin and can lead to infection. Especially in the nighttime, putting scratch mitts on your baby or toddler can help them sleep better and avoid injuring themselves in the night.

TOP TIP: In the summer, keeping your baby’s emollient in the fridge to keep it chilled can help cool and soothe your baby’s skin when you apply it.

If your baby or toddler’s eczema is severe, your doctor may recommend different emollients, topical treatments such as steroid creams or antibiotics to help heal the skin and avoid or treat any infections.

Mum holding baby with eczema on its face

Lastly, identifying triggers can help you manage your baby or toddler’s eczema. Sometimes you won’t be able to determine what causes a flare-up, but it’s good to be aware of particular irritants that bother your little one such as being too warm or using certain products. Although food allergies may be part of the problem, always consult a doctor about allergy testing before removing foods from their diet5.

What about you?

When your baby or toddler suffers from eczema, it’s not just hard for them – it is often very tough for parents, too. All parents know that seeing your child suffer is a terrible thing and when it comes to eczema, you often feel very out of control which can make you feel even worse.

However, it’s important to remember that it’s not your fault and there are many other parents going through the same thing. It may be helpful to reach out to a local eczema society as they often have support groups for parents where you can talk to and learn from others who have had similar experiences.

Click hear to learn more about Eczema