Management of eczema in infants
As a parent, it can be hard to see your small child feeling uncomfortable with dry, itchy skin as a result of eczema. But whilst atopic eczema cannot be cured, there are many ways to manage it and prevent flare-ups.
How is eczema in infants diagnosed?
As there is no specific test for eczema, it can only be diagnosed through a consultation with your doctor or a skin or allergy specialist. During the consultation, you’ll be asked about your child’s eczema symptoms, how symptoms affect their day-to-day life and if you’ve noticed any triggers that cause flare-ups.
It’s important to have confirmation that your child does in fact have eczema in order to provide them with the most effective treatment.
If your child already has an eczema diagnosis, this guide can help you treat their symptoms at home. If you suspect your child has eczema but they have not had a diagnosis, book an appointment for your child to be assessed.
Preventing eczema flare-ups
There are a number of things you can do to help manage your child’s eczema condition and prevent flare-ups. This includes bathing your child using certain methods, identifying and avoiding their triggers, and managing any itching they experience.
Bathing your child
Although your child may not enjoy bath time, it’s important to bathe them daily to help remove dead skin, eliminate dirt, reduce bacteria and wash potential irritants off the skin.
Follow these steps when bathing your child to help keep their skin hydrated and avoid causing further irritation:
- Bathe your child in lukewarm water every day for around 5–10 minutes.
- Use non-soap cleansers to wash them with.
- Gently wipe their skin with a soft natural sponge. Do not scrub the skin and be particularly careful when washing any dry, flaky areas.
- Rinse their skin thoroughly with plain water to remove any residues.
- Pat their skin dry after washing. Don’t rub as this will irritate the skin and can cause a flare-up.
- Apply a fragrance-free emollient cream or ointment while their skin is still a little damp. If your child has been prescribed topical (for the skin) cream, apply this 15 minutes after the moisturiser.
- If you’re trying out a new lotion for the first time, always test it on a small area of skin first to make sure it doesn’t cause a reaction.
- Once they are dry and the lotion has had a few minutes to soak into the skin, dress your child in loose cotton clothing.
Although daily bathing may seem excessive, it’s very important for children with eczema as it helps to lower levels of bacteria on the skin reducing their risk of developing an infection.
If your child is having a particularly bad flare-up, make sure the bath water is tepid to reduce drying effects. This will also minimise any pain they may experience in areas of their skin that are very dry or cracked.
An important part of treating your child’s eczema is to identify and avoid any triggers. Common eczema triggers include:
- Low humidity – Central heating during winter months can reduce moisture in the air which can cause dry, itchy skin. Putting a damp towel over radiators or placing a bowl of water next to them can help put moisture back into the air to increase humidity
- Irritants – Anything that can irritate your child’s skin such as wool or polyester clothes, perfumes, harsh body soaps, and strong laundry detergents can all trigger eczema symptoms. Dressing your child in 100% cotton clothes and using fragrance-free products can help you reduce their exposure to irritants
- Heat and sweat – Being hot and sweaty can make itchy skin worse. Dress your child in layers which can be easily removed when they start to get too warm
- Allergens – Some children will experience eczema as a result of an allergen such as animal dander, dust or pollen. If you notice your child’s symptoms worsen after they’ve come into contact with an allergen, do all you can to avoid it by removing it as much as you can from your home
Constant itchiness is very uncomfortable and scratching can make your child’s eczema worse. Persistent itching can even break the skin, causing bleeding and infections in some cases. To help manage your child’s itching try the following tips:
- Moisturise your child’s skin at least two times a day with fragrance-free cream or ointment. It may be easiest to do this when changing their nappy
- Clip their nails regularly and make sure there are no sharp edges. This will reduce their ability to scratch and avoid skin from breaking
- Put mittens or socks on their hands while they’re sleeping. This will help prevent them from scratching their skin during sleep
Treatments for eczema in children
If at-home management isn’t improving your child’s symptoms, doctor-led treatments are available.
Treatment for eczema ranges from steroid creams to other medicines if these did not work, or if you could not use them due to side effects. This may include the use of medicated paste bandages to soothe and protect their skin, which is especially effective on young children and can help limit scratching.
Interestingly, as children get older, many will see their eczema improve or clear. However, they will nearly always continue to have dry skin, so should continue to avoid irritants that can trigger flare-ups. They should also keep their skin hydrated and clean with a good bathing and moisturising routine.
When to consult a doctor
It’s important to seek advice and treatment from a doctor if you think your child’s skin may have become infected. Symptoms of infection to look out for are:
- Fluid oozing or weeping from the skin
- Crusty yellow scabs
- More itching and irritation than usual
- Painful skin
- Hot, red or swollen skin
- A fever
If you’re worried that your child’s eczema symptoms are getting worse, or they are having flare-ups more frequently, make an appointment with their paediatrician for advice.
Children’s Allergy Doctors can help with the management of eczema in infants
In many cases, children’s eczema is not as well managed as it could be. Expert advice on treatment and managing triggers can be helpful in gaining better control.
At Children’s Allergy Doctors, we test for allergens that may be affecting your child so that you know what to avoid. We also provide expert advice on how you can prevent eczema from developing or worsening, as well as how you can best treat your child if they are affected by the condition. Get in touch today to book a consultation and get your child’s eczema treated.
What parents say:
“We had two appointments with Dr Brough to discuss our sons allergies. She was professional and thorough in her approach and advice. She gave us clear advice and instruction on the management of his allergies and eczema. His eczema is now well managed and she devised a clear treatment plan for his allergies. We found her to be very knowledgeable and experienced and she provided us with resources to take away which have also proved very useful. We would definitely recommend Dr Brough to other parents.”