Baby Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis): What Is It and What Are Its Symptoms?

Baby Eczema - What it is and What are the Symptoms

“Baby eczema” refers to childhood atopic dermatitis which is a scaly, red, itchy rash often associated with hay fever and other allergies. It is characterized by recurrent flare-ups although symptoms can be more persistent in some children. Roughly 65 percent of patients begin showing symptoms before the age of 1, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Although eczema is a chronic condition, some children outgrow it by the time they are 4 years old. For those who do not, symptoms can be managed in a variety of ways. 

Causes of Baby Eczema

While the underlying cause of baby eczema is not known, certain factors raise a child’s risk of developing it. Children with family members who have eczema or other types of allergies have a higher chance of being affected. Living in cities can also raise this risk due to regular exposure to pollutants, dust, and other substances that can irritate the skin. Being in a dry climate can also lead to a higher chance of baby eczema as it predisposes patients to have dry skin. 

Symptoms of Baby Eczema

The symptoms of baby eczema differ for each child, but some of the most common include persistent itching, often worse at night, raised bumps that often crust over when scratched, and red or brown patches of skin that can become thicker and scaly with rubbing and scratching. Baby eczema affects many parts of the body including the feet, hands, chest, the backs of the knees, and the eyelids. Affected areas may leak fluid if they are scratched open. Frequent scratching may also cause skin to appear raw and swollen. 

In children who progress to more longstanding atopic dermatitis, symptoms do not abate at age 4 but persist. These children often have other associated conditions such as asthma. 

Complications of Baby Eczema

Children who scratch their skin severely may develop skin infections if bacteria enter through broken skin. Some of these, such as Staph infections, may be dangerous and require hospitalization.  These infections may interfere with school and other activities.

Eczema itself is very taxing on the quality of life of the affected child and his or her family. It may cause sleep problems due to itching, especially at night, which may affect school performance.  

Diagnosing Eczema

Pediatricians typically diagnose baby eczema by examining the child’s skin, asking parents for details about symptoms, checking the child’s medical history and conducting tests that help rule out the presence of other skin conditions. Parents can help pediatricians make an accurate diagnosis by providing information or by keeping a diary on when flare-ups typically occur and what might be making them worse. 

Treatments and Remedies for Baby Eczema

Baby eczema cannot be cured but flare-ups can be managed with treatment and some home remedies. Pediatricians sometimes prescribe medications for baby eczema although these carry the risk of side effects and should only be used with caution. Some of these include topical creams or ointments, such as topical steroids, and oral medications taken in liquid or pill form such as oral antihistamines or in severe cases, corticosteroids. These should only be taken on a short-term basis due to the risk of long-term side effects. 

Light therapy, which involves controlled exposure to ultraviolet light, can help manage the symptoms of eczema although it is only safe to use in older children and usually on a short-term basis. 

Using dilute bleach baths has been shown to be beneficial. Additionally CLn® BodyWash formulated with sodium hypochlorite has been shown to be an effective adjunctive cleanser in children 6 months and older who suffer from eczema.

Managing Baby Eczema

Parents can help control and manage baby eczema by avoiding things that trigger symptoms such as clothing that may irritate the skin including wool clothing and clothes made from synthetic fibers.  It is also advisable to avoid scented soaps and harsh laundry detergents.  Home remedies for baby eczema that can provide relief include keeping children’s skin moisturized, using gentle products for bathing and laundry that will not irritate skin, giving children warm baths, and patting children dry after baths. Placing cool compresses on the affected areas can also help relieve itching. Keeping nails short can help prevent skin infections due to scratching.