NOTE: Please consult your child’s doctor before trying out any of these tips to make sure you are addressing your child’s eczema as safely and effectively as possible.
Eczema, medically known as dermatitis, is an umbrella term for a number of non-contagious skin conditions that cause skin inflammation and rash.
They can also lead to dry, scaly, and very itchy skin, blisters, and even “lichenification.” This is just a fancy term that refers to skin that has gotten thicker due to scratching.
In young children, eczema on the face and in the creases of the elbows, knees, and neck may be more prevalent than eczema on the hands.
One of the most common types of eczema in children is atopic dermatitis, which affects about 13% of U.S. children, especially infants and toddlers younger than 5. It is regarded as a chronic inflammatory skin condition that occurs due to an overactive immune system response to the environment or to internal triggers.
The exact causes of baby eczema are not fully known. What experts do know, however, is that children in families with a history of conditions such as asthma, hay fever, allergies, atopic dermatitis, etc. are more prone to developing eczema.
In addition to genetic factors, causes of eczema may also include various external factors such as air pollutants, allergens in food and/or the environment (e.g. dust mites), exposure to hot/very cold temperatures, low humidity environments, fabrics that irritate the child’s skin such as wool and synthetic fibers, etc.
Eczema in Infants & Babies vs. Eczema in Toddlers
The location of eczema tends to change as your child grows. In infants less than 6 months of age, eczema is typically limited to the face area (scalp, forehead, cheeks, and chin), while in babies 6 to 12 months of age, eczema can also spread to the baby’s knees and elbows, The eczema rash may also become infected, resulting in baby eczema symptoms such as yellow crusts or small pus-filled bumps.
In toddlers, eczema tends to appear around their mouth, on the eyelids, in the creases of their knees and elbows, and also on the wrists, and ankles. At this stage, additional symptoms of eczema include dry and scaly skin, as well as lichenification (an eczema symptom that refers to dry areas that are either lighter or darker than the normal skin tone). Eczema on the hands and feet is more prevalent in children around 5 years of age
Baby eczema treatment includes prescription medication (e.g. topical corticosteroids and immunomodulators, and even oral antibiotics for secondary infections), phototherapy, and OTC medication (e.g. anti-itch eczema lotion or eczema cream). To soothe your baby’s atopic dermatitis, you can also try several home remedies for baby eczema, including dietary supplements such as antioxidants and probiotics, herbal creams, and other topical treatments based on natural ingredients, lifestyle changes.
Research suggests that probiotics are able to boost the immune system, which is why they are recommended to be included in the diet of babies and children suffering from eczema. A 2018 study showed that Lactobacillus-containing probiotics can be used effectively for eczema treatment. These probiotics are especially effective in reducing symptoms associated with moderate to severe atopic dermatitis in babies and toddlers less than 3 years of age.
2. Marigold and Chamomile Ointments
Scientific evidence supports the use of creams based on marigold and chamomile extract for baby eczema treatment because these herbs boast anti-inflammatory properties, thus making them effective in relieving symptoms associated with eczema.
When applied topically, eczema creams based on these natural extracts can reduce itching, eliminate blisters, and promote healing of the skin. Salves containing marshmallow (Althea officinalis) can also soothe the skin and relieve scaling of the affected areas.
3. Nutmeg Paste Applied Topically
This ancient remedy for a large variety of skin diseases is said to work miracles for eczema. Mix nutmeg with a soothing oil (preferably almond oil) and cocoa or shea butter and then apply this mixture directly to the areas affected by eczema. Moreover, continuing to use this remedy after the symptoms of eczema have improved will also help prevent relapse.
4. Magnesium Baths or Topical Magnesium Oil
Adding 1 to 2 cups of magnesium flakes and a cup of Epsom salts to the child’s baths can help relieve itching and heal the affected areas. You can also add 1/2 cup of sea salt and 10-15 drops of mint essential oil, which can also reduce the itching, discomfort, and other baby eczema symptoms. Lukewarm water instead of hot water should be used.
5. Milk Alternatives
Cow’s milk is the main dietary trigger for eczema; dairy in general, eggs, and fish can also promote flares of eczema. There are multiple healthy and delicious, lactose-free alternatives to cow’s milk that your child will love, including almond milk, rice, and oat milk as well as coconut milk and other dairy substitutes.
NOTE: Be sure to discuss any diet changes with your child’s pediatrician.
6. Dietary Supplements for Older Children
Antioxidants such as vitamins C and E protect the skin from oxidative stress and also help to improve the texture of the skin by boosting collagen production.
A fatty acid deficiency is often responsible for the occurrence of eczema, in which case supplementing your child’s diet with flaxseed oil, rich in fatty acids such as omega 3, 6, and 9 may prove beneficial in relieving eczema symptoms. Bromelain, a natural enzyme derived from pineapple, has powerful anti-inflammatory properties and may also be effective in soothing your child’s eczema. Antioxidant-rich foods such as wild berries, strawberries, kiwifruit, and green peppers work as natural antihistamines, helping reduce allergic reactions that typically accompany eczema.
7. Apply Wet Compresses
When applied directly to the affected areas, wet compresses help to macerate the blisters caused by atopic dermatitis. When they are removed, typically after 30 minutes, they also support the debridement of the scaly skin and thus prevent crust and serum from accumulating on the skin, in the case of oozing eczema. Wet wrap therapy is especially useful during eczema flares.
8. Moisturize Several Times a Day
Applying a hypoallergenic moisturizer to the affected area at least twice a day will help keep your child’s skin moist. Adequate skin hydration is crucial to the prevention of eczema flares and the treatment of baby eczema or atopic dermatitis.
9. Avoid Watery Creams and Limit Showers
Aqueous creams can worsen the symptoms of eczema in children, which is why it’s best to use creams that contain ceramides (these compounds are deficient in the skin of children affected by eczema). Other irritants such as hot water, soaps which are not pH neural, bubble bath, fabrics, and more should also be avoided.