Baby eczema symptoms can arise at any point in childhood but usually occur before the age of two. It is estimated that 15-25% of young children and infants have eczema, with 65% percent developing the condition in their first year, and 90% within their first five years of life.
The condition generally affects the face, neck, hands, elbows, and the backs of knees, causing a bubbling, or oozing rash, with skin crusting, itchiness, and discomfort.
Children may also develop infant scalp eczema and scratching leading to infection may affect the growth of healthy hair in a child. Adult eczema can affect the same areas of the body as baby eczema, but usually does not appear on the face. Adult eczema may occur on the feet as well as the hands, neck, elbows, and knees.
Parents of infants with eczema may find it difficult to prevent their baby from scratching their skin and the baby themselves will have little capacity for self-control in this regard, unlike adults. Where persistent scratching is a problem this can lead to skin infections which require either antiseptic creams or oral antibiotic treatment.
Baby eczema can be so itchy that a child’s sleep is disrupted which can adversely affect behaviour, energy levels, and development. A cranky, tired, and itchy baby is also less confident and the infant’s quality of life may be significantly impaired where baby eczema symptoms are severe.
Baby Eczema Symptoms – Skin Infection
Infected baby eczema can cause the skin to bleed, form a crust, and ooze pus or fluid. A smaller infection isolated to a little patch of skin will likely be treated with antibiotic cream, whereas a large infection may need treatment with antibiotics suitable for a baby. A systemic infection may cause the child to develop a fever, loss of appetite, persistent crying, sleepiness, and other symptoms and parents should ensure that their baby receives prompt medical attention.
Causes of baby eczema
Baby eczema can be exacerbated by skin allergens including numerous household chemicals. Contact eczema, or dermatitis, may result from exposure to chemicals in laundry detergents, washing up liquid, shampoos, soaps, and fabric softeners, as well as baby bubble baths.
Atopic eczema can flare up following exposure to such harsh chemicals and both contact eczema and baby eczema may occur together. Identifying the eczema allergen can help to avoid flare-ups in the future but may be difficult due to the vast number of different products we, and our babies, are exposed to on a daily basis.
Contact dermatitis in children may also occur as a result of an allergy to specific metals, synthetic chemicals, or natural substances. Some cases of contact dermatitis arise due to a reaction to nickel in jewellery and the itchiness (pruritis) may spread to areas of the skin away from the actual site of contact, making it difficult to tell where the contact eczema begins and the baby eczema ends.
Managing baby eczema
In cases where repeat infections occur, baby eczema may need more careful management and intensive treatment, including steroid medications, or specific allergy testing by a qualified dermatologist to determine if something, so far undetected, is causing contact eczema on top of the baby eczema.
Parents may suspect specific food triggers as causing baby eczema and attempt to address the condition through dietary change and allergen control. This can be helpful but should be supervised by qualified nutritionists or dietitians. Significant dietary changes can be problematic in infants leading to possible nutrient deficiencies which could themselves make baby eczema worse and/or can affect normal infant growth and development.
The use of natural remedies for baby eczema is also very tempting for parents but some adult eczema treatments may be unsuitable for small children and should be discussed with a medical practitioner prior to application.
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