- Eczema is one of the most common health problems ailing babies and young children.
- Eczema can be treated using very simple and natural methods.
- If you are expecting or planning to become pregnant, there are ways that you can minimize the risk of your child developing eczema.
In this article, I will be discussing baby eczema causes. It’s horrible to see your little one struggling with a skin problem but there are steps you can take to minimize the occurrence of eczema and treat it when it does happen.
When you think about the fact that baby products are geared towards sensitive and fragile skin it can be very worrying to think about what could be triggering eczema. You will learn all about the triggers, but first, it’s important to understand your baby’s skin and what eczema is.
Your Baby’s Skin
A baby’s skin is only 1/5 as thick as an adult’s skin despite having the same amount of layers. This means the skin is very sensitive. Your baby’s skin can dry out more easily and is more easily affected by chemicals in products and by the sun. Just on a side note, it is so important to protect them from Microwaves and Cell phone radiations. They can penetrate easily into the babies and can do permanent damage. I have written a full separate article on that. Getting back to Eczema:
What is Eczema
Eczema is also known as atopic dermatitis and isn’t contagious. Atopic dermatitis is the most common form of eczema among children. It usually has two phases:
- Phase 1 (inactive): This is where the skin is dry. The skin will need to be moisturized daily to relieve the dryness and the discomfort that comes with it (itching, tightness, flaking, and irritation). Below I have written how to sop this in stage one or how to reverse it to stage 1 to having no eczema.
- Phase 2 (active): This is where treatment is required because eczema has flared up. Usually, the treatment is cream or lotion that will soothe itchy skin and calm the inflammation.
- Thick, leathery skin to touch
- Bumps on the skin
- Scaly skin
- Redness and inflammation
- Dark discolored skin
- Oozing or weeping skin
Though it can occur in other areas of the body, it’s most common in the bends of the elbows and the back of the knees, and the hands, feet, face, and scalp.
It’s most common for small children starting from the age of about 6 months and some do outgrow it. But there isn’t any way to tell whether or not eczema will last into adulthood. Fortunately, it may also become less severe with age. Most children outgrow eczema by the age of five.
Eczema Causes in Babies and the Solution
Often, eczema runs in the family. Though you may not have eczema, if you have allergies like hay fever, for example, your baby is more prone to developing eczema. There isn’t much you can do about the genes, but you can treat eczema if it occurs. The skin of people who have eczema is usually unable to retain moisture or lacks the ability to fight off bacteria and allergens.
I am not the one who puts a lot of blames on genes because I know that with proper knowledge, one can reverse our genetic predisposal to any disease. This is called Epigenetics
Apply moisturizer to your baby’s skin as soon as they have finished bathing. It’s important to do it within 3 minutes while your baby’s skin is still damp. The moisturizer will help the skin to absorb and trap the water. Use a fragrance-free cream that contains ceramides or petroleum jelly. Natural oils that are safe for babies can also be used, for example, almond, sesame, or coconut.
2. Food Allergies
Food allergies are common in small children. Sometimes children even outgrow the allergens but while they still react to them, they need to be avoided. Dairy, wheat, gluten, soy, eggs, and nuts are common allergens. Though you may not know what they are allergic to, there are steps you can take.
Remove the common allergenic foods from your child’s diet for a few weeks one at a time and see if symptoms improve or not. If the symptoms do disappear and you add that food back in and the symptoms reappear then this is an allergen or trigger for their eczema and should be avoided. This is called an elimination diet.
My baby was sensitive to eggs. I did not give her eggs for 10 days and the patches start reversing. But this does not mean that she would not be able to eat eggs her whole life. I will again experiment in 6 months to see what eggs do to her body. So really the trick is elimination one food category for 10 days and then observing the symptoms.
3. Personal Care Items
Bubble bath, soaps, body washes, lotions, shampoos, etc. These products often have chemicals in them that may irritate your child’s skin. You can read about the harmful chemicals used in sunscreen and other personal care products here.
Avoid the products that trigger eczema. Fragranced products and those with colorants are usually the culprits. They contain parabens, phthalates, sulfates, and other chemicals that not only irritate your child’s skin but also act as hormone disruptors. Steer clear of these. Learn more about these chemicals and their sources here.
4. Detergent and Household Cleaners
There are often harsh chemicals in these products. If you’ve cleaned without using gloves you will have felt how drying they can be. One of the worst things is laundry detergent. Unlike cleaning products which can be rinsed away, for the most part, the clothing your child wears still carries the chemicals from the detergent.
Did you know that baking soda acts as a fabric softener? Add 1/2 cup to your wash or rinse cycle. Lemon juice, vinegar, and tea tree oil are also great for cleaning your home instead of the usual toxic cleaners. Just google DIY Household cleaner. Wellnessmama has great DIY recipes
5. Other Allergens
Pet dander, dust, pollen, and smoke are very common allergens. Lesser known allergens are mold and fire retardants. Mold isn’t always visible, but there is usually a musty smell that accompanies it. Fire retardants are in cosmetics, toys, some personal care and cleaning products, but mainly in furniture, especially older furniture and fabrics used to make curtains and carpets.
Your child may need to be given antihistamines since these can’t always be avoided, but keep your home clean and dust free as much as possible. Removing dust also helps to get rid of fire retardants in the air. Use natural methods to get rid of molds like baking soda or vinegar. Read more about getting rid of molds naturally here.
Washing your hands as well your child’s hands especially before meals can help to minimize ingestion of fire retardants. During the seasons where there is more pollen, keep the windows closed during the day and keep your child away from smoke and pollution as much as possible.
6. Clothing and Linen
Some children might have an allergy to wool. Wool contains an oil produced by the sheep’s skin called lanolin. Lanolin is what causes the allergy. Many personal care items also contain lanolin. Your child may also be affected by synthetic materials (nylon, polyester, rayon) which often contain chemicals like fire retardants. They also tend to be rougher which can cause irritation.
Opt for natural fibers instead, like cotton and silk which are breathable and gentle on the skin. If your child reacts to wool, avoid wool clothing and blankets. You will also need to avoid personal care products containing lanolin.
Antibiotics destroy all the bacteria in the body including the good bacteria that boost your child’s immune system. Antibiotics increase the risk for eczema by 40%. Viral infections like colds and flu are treated with antibiotics when it is, in fact, useless against viruses. Antibiotics are only effective against bacteria. Antibiotics are like a nuclear bomb to your body, it kills all the good and bad organisms that train your immune system. In most of the cases Antibiotics are not required at all.
Some doctors are able to tell whether something is caused by bacteria or a virus, but for the most part, tests need to be run to be sure. Always insist on tests being run before accepting antibiotics for your child. Rather use natural remedies to treat cold, flu and fever such as chicken or vegetable soup and cough mixture made out of lemon juice and honey.
The measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine and the flu vaccine can trigger eczema in children who are allergic to eggs according to the American Academy of Dermatology. The flu vaccine is also only 40-60% effective depending on the type given, so chances are that your child is better off not getting the flu vaccine even if he or she is not allergic to eggs.
Speak to the pediatrician about an alternative to the MMR vaccine. You can boost your child’s immune system naturally to help prevent flu with zinc and vitamin C, by making sure they get enough vitamin D, and feeding them a healthy diet full of a variety of vegetables and that is low in processed and sugary foods.
9. Low Humidity
When the air is dry, it can dry out the skin too. In the drier seasons, dry skin is very common for most people but even more so for those whose skin isn’t able to retain moisture effectively.
Using a humidifier can help with this. Avoid air conditioning as this also dries out the air. Keep your child hydrated by giving them tea, water, and breast milk or formula if they still drink it. In my house, I rather put more warm clothes to my kids than putting the heaters high on.
Heat causes sweating which can irritate the skin. Sweating also causes dehydration if not enough liquids are consumed.
Try to keep your home cool and make sure that your child is wearing loose-fitting cotton which can minimize discomfort during hot days. Give him or her plenty of refreshing liquids like water and iced herbal teas to help with hydration. Lukewarm baths or showers are also a good way to cool down on a hot day and refresh sticky, hot skin.
11. Harsh Water
The water used to bath your child can also be causing eczema. Fluoride and other chemicals like chlorine are often present in the water. The skin can absorb these chemicals and a child’s skin is far more absorbent than adult skin. Our skin absorbs 60% of what we put on the skin. So be very careful of baby cosmetics and your own cosmetics.
We don’t often think of children becoming stressed out. But if you are feeling anxious and upset your child will pick up on this and feel stressed out too. The one big proof is that when I weaned my baby off breast milk, she immediately caught a virus. Her immune system got compromised because she was stressed as I took from her the thing she loves the most. During this time I cuddled her much more and let her sleep on my chest, so that she does not feel this detachment.
Try to create a stress-free and clutter-free environment for your child and give him or her lots of love. Chamomile tea is very soothing and safe for children over 6 months. You can even give them messages using lavender or chamomile essential oil diluted in a carrier oil like coconut oil.
More Ways to Care for Your Baby’s Skin
Keeping your child’s skin moisturized and minimizing contact with allergens is only one part of preventing triggers. Here are some other things you can do:
- Keep the bath water lukewarm: Hot water can dry out the skin.
- Short baths: Don’t bathe your child for more than 10 minutes. Keeping them in the water for a long time strips their skins of natural oils just like harsh soaps would.
- Salt baths: Adding Himalayan salt will help to draw toxins out of your child’s body safely.
- Sesame oil: This isn’t only a good oil to use as a moisturizer after a bath, but can be used before bathing to moisturize it and prevent excess moisture from being lost.
Skin Barrier Creams
These creams contain the substances like ceramides, cholesterol and fatty acids (like omega 6 which is particularly beneficial for dry skin) that the skin naturally uses to retain moisture and keep out harmful things. In those who have eczema, the skin may not have enough of these as the body might struggle to absorb and use fatty acids or the skin isn’t functioning as it should.
Using a barrier cream creates a protective layer over the skin to keep in moisture and keep out toxins just like the skin would do naturally. Use these creams on the affected area only. These creams are either prescribed by a doctor or you can get them over the counter. It’s best to use them under the guidance of a doctor.
Finally, for topical treatment, I cannot say enough about a Chinese herbal formula containing sophora—I have seen bad cases of eczema clear up in just a few days with this product. A member of the pea family, sophora contains a biopolymer called arabinogalactan consisting of two simple sugars, arabinose and galactose. Arabinogalactan functions as a signalling molecule between cells, as well as glue to seal wounds, and may also interact with the immune system in a positive way.
The sophora topical treatment is available from drkangformulas.com. The product is number 49 on the website. The preparation is quite expensive—ten dollars for a small packet—but many find that it is more than worth it in the almost instant relief from itching that it gives.
Healthy Diet and Supplements to Beat Eczema
Nutritional deficiencies can weaken your baby’s immune system. Another problem is if your child doesn’t get enough essential fatty acids and vitamins the health of their skin is affected too especially in terms of being dry and healing very slowly. Adequate levels of zinc can minimize allergies.
A wide variety of vegetables should be given for the vitamins and minerals. Vegetables are also more alkaline which helps your body to fight off inflammation. Minimize grains and lower meat and dairy intake as these are foods that have an acidic effect on the body. The quality of the food is important. Go for organic produce, grass-fed meat, and raw dairy.
Sugar and processed foods are should be either completely cut out or limited. They contain unhealthy fats and also have an acidic effect on the body. Rather have them eat healthier fats like omega 3 which fights inflammation and cholesterol (in moderation) which is important for healthy cells. These fats are found in avocados, coconut oil, fatty fish like salmon and sardines, and olive oil.
Probiotics and Prebiotics
Probiotic foods will help to keep your child’s gut healthy. Good gut bacteria help to fight off diseases and fight toxins coming into the body. This helps to keep your child’s immune system strong and their skin healthy. It also decreases allergies and eczema as found in this study. The particular strain used in this study was L. rhamnosus which is found in dairy but can also be found in supplements.
Prebiotics are just as important as probiotics. Prebiotics are the foods of your probiotics. Prebiotics are found in fiber that isn’t absorbed by the body (insoluble fiber). Eating garlic, onion, artichoke, asparagus, and starchy vegetables like carrots, sweet potato, and beetroot boost prebiotic intake.
Preventing Eczema in Your Child
Eczema affects around 20% of babies. But there are things that you can do that may help to prevent your baby from developing eczema.
- Probiotics: Making sure that you eat probiotic foods and possibly take a probiotic supplement while you are pregnant and breastfeeding can help to prevent eczema.
- Breastfeeding: Your breast milk is the perfect food for your baby. It contains all the nutrients that he or she needs and antibodies that help to fight off infections and decreases the prevalence of allergies. This effect was seen in babies fed only breast milk even for only the first 6 weeks.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D is important to fight off diseases in the body, this effect extends to your child. Not getting enough vitamin D during your pregnancy increases the risk of your child developing eczema. Make sure that you get enough vitamin D during your pregnancy. Read more about the benefits of vitamin D and how to make sure you get enough here.
- Eczema (atopic dermatitis) can develop in babies as young as 6 months and is usually outgrown by age 5 though it can also last into adulthood in some children.
- Eczema has two phases, an inactive phase where the skin is dry and sometimes irritated and requires daily moisturizing, and the active phase where there are patches of eczema.
- Many things can cause eczema, usually genetics, stress, and allergens.
- Reduce exposure to allergens and try an elimination diet to learn which foods trigger eczema.
- Create a stress-free environment for your child to minimize the possibility of stress.
- Use natural chemical-free products where possible.
- Keep baths short and lukewarm. Moisturize within 3 minutes of the bath finishing.
- A healthy diet full of vegetables and healthy fats will help to support your child’s immune system and skin health.
- You can minimize the risk of your child getting eczema by eating probiotics and getting enough vitamin D during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
What remedies do you use to alleviate your child’s eczema or what remedies did your parents use to relieve your eczema as a child?
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- Do vaccinations cause eczema?
- Skin Health, Eczema, and Preventative Strategies
- Bad Versus Good Bacteria + 8 Ways Probiotics Help Your Kids
- Eczema: An Introduction to This Chronic Skin Disorder
- Antibiotics linked to eczema risk in children
- Atopic dermatitis (eczema)
- Atopic dermatitis