Baby eczema, also known as infantile eczema is a type of atopic dermatitis that causes itchy rashes. It is estimated to affect about 10 to 15 percent of babies during the first months after birth. Infantile eczema should not be confused with cradle cap, a type of seborrheic dermatitis which causes scaly patches on the scalp. Cradle cap does not cause itching and typically resolves on its own within a few months. Eczema, on the other hand, tends to persist and often causes severe itching.
Infantile eczema is characterized by red rashes that typically occur on the cheeks, and near the joins on arms and legs. The rashes can be composed of small, raised bumps that can leak a small amount of fluid when scratched. This skin condition is very itchy and can cause great discomfort to your baby, while scratching often makes the rashes even itchier. Fortunately, baby eczema resolves by the age of 5 years in most cases although it sometimes continues into adulthood.
The causes of infantile eczema are poorly understood. It is believed to be caused by a combination of several factors such as immune system malfunction and dry skin. Genetic factors are believed to play a role as well. Babies who have a family history of allergies or eczema are more likely to develop this itchy skin condition, especially if one or both parents suffer from eczema too.
Although infantile eczema is classified as a type of allergy, elimination of allergens may not be enough to control the condition. Nevertheless, identification and avoidance of triggers is very important. They tend to vary greatly from one baby to another but the most common eczema triggers include:
– dry skin
– skin irritants such as fabric softeners, perfumed soaps, wool clothes
– heat and sweat
– (possibly) dietary factors
If you suspect that your baby may have eczema, you should take him or her to your doctor to get a medical diagnosis. Treatment of baby eczema depends on its severity but it often requires an anti-itch cream to relieve the discomfort and control the symptoms because eczema cannot be cured. If your baby has mild eczema, your doctor may recommend a mild hydrocortisone cream, trigger identification and avoidance, and regular skin moisturizing because dry skin tends to be more prone to inflammation.
The most important of all is to prevent your baby from scratching himself or herself because scratching can make the rash worse and even lead to infection. Since it is very difficult to prevent scratching in a baby, make sure that your baby’s nails are regularly trimmed. It may be also worth considering the so-called scratch mittens which will prevent your baby from badly scratching himself or herself.
Contact your doctor if the symptoms do not improve within a week after starting treatment because your baby may need a prescription-strength medication. You are also highly recommended to take your baby to his or her doctor if noticing pus-filled blisters or thick, yellow crusts on the skin because they may signal an infection.