Ten to 20 percent of infants experience a dry, itchy skin condition called eczema. An expert gives tips on how to help ease the symptoms for young infants.
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CLEVELAND – Ten to 20 percent of infants experience a dry, itchy skin condition called eczema.
But not all eczema is created equal, according to Mary Smith, APRN, CNS of Cleveland Clinic.
“It can just be as simple as dry skin, so just a little bit of scaling,” said Smith. “Or it can be all the way to red, broken, open, and crusting on it and you’ll see them rub into sheets even before they can lift their head all the way, or rub into their caregivers shoulder because it’s just so itchy.”
A baby’s cheeks and scalp are often the first place a parent will notice eczema, but it may also appear in the folds of the neck, arms and legs.
Smith said children with eczema are missing some of the proteins that act as the ‘glue’ of the skin’s barrier, causing the skin to dry out and be open to allergens, yeast, or bacteria overgrowth.
A daily bath is important to keep the skin clean. Smith recommends using a mild soap and applying moisturizer right away, preferably one that is fragrance free and contains ceramide, which helps replace some of the skin’s missing ‘glue.’
Itching increases when the skin is dry, so keeping it moist is important too.
Prescription-strength medications are also available for those who don’t respond to over-the-counter products.
Smith said children with eczema are prone to developing allergies to substances that enter the body through a broken skin barrier. She recommends sticking to simple products and being wary of any added ingredients, even if they are marketed as being naturally derived or organic.
“Aloe, lanolin and some of those things can make you very, very itchy because then you develop a contact allergy to it,” said Smith.
Smith also recommends protecting eczema affected areas on the face during a baby’s mealtime to decrease the chance of potential food allergens from entering the skin.
She suggests covering the area with ointment or a ceramide-containing cream during meals, thoroughly cleaning the child’s face afterwards and then reapplying the product.