*We’ve partnered with Aveeno to help you read baby’s skin more clearly.
When it comes to understanding your new baby, you’re often reliant on body signs. Since baby can’t actually tell you what’s wrong, everything from how he drinks to how he poops could be a method of communication. His skin can communicate, too — since it’s the largest organ in the body, when something isn’t right, the skin reacts pretty quickly. Those dry patches, scales or redness could be telling you that he’s got allergies or irritation…or eczema.
To help us understand what exactly our babies’ skin is saying — and how to treat it — we called in dermatologist Dr. Jeanine Downie. Here’s her advice on spotting eczema and treating it.
How prevalent is eczema in babies?
Ezcema is actually genetic. If a family member experiences allergies, asthma or eczema, it could potentially show up at anytime in your baby. At present, there are roughly 50 million cases in the general population, and of which, 50% are diagnosed as babies. The severity of it could change as you age and go through different phases of life.
What does eczema look like and where is it typically found?
Usually you’ll see an area of red or hyper-pigmented skin that is usually thickened in density. You may or may not see scratch marks, and it may or may not be scaly. Eczema could appear on one area of the body or all over your body – that depends on the person.
What would make your baby more likely to get it?
If your little one is already prone to it due to the familial genetics, there are various triggers. The environment does play a role. For example, most people flare with cooler weather months, where the skin is dry from the lack of humidity and moisture. However, many also flare in the summer months when there is an increase in sweating, which also causes irritation.
Are there common skin irritants that might heighten the chances my baby could get eczema?
Wool fabrics tend to cause itchiness, so stick to 100% cotton instead. Laundry detergent can be an irritant too, and avoid cologne, perfume or strong-scented products, since fragrance can often cause skin reactions.
What simple changes can I make in my daily life to relieve skin inflammation?
Cut your nails! Our nails carry germs and debris and when we use them to scratch – it makes it worse. Make sure to cut you and your little one’s nails often enough. Once you’ve cut the nails, use a nail file to keep them smooth so that there is no white showing.
If you do determine your baby has eczema, how can you treat it?
There’s several ways we can treat eczema, ranging from over-the-counter to prescription. Here's what I'd suggest in order:
1)Topical over the counter creams/ balms. Creams with oatmeal as an ingredient can be very helpful.
2)Prescription Rx – immunomodulators i.e. (Elidel)*
3)Over the counter antihistamines. Find out what your doctor suggests based on the age of your baby.
4)Prescription Rx – steroids (topical).
5)Prescription Rx – steroids (oral)**
For any prescription, your doctor will determine what is safe and appropriate. There aren't many prescriptive options for babies under age 2.
What can I do at home to help my baby?
If you notice irritated, red, hyper-pigmented skin (and it is familial), consult your doctor so that you’re aware if you’re child has eczema. Once you know, create a plan to help your child handle the environmental changes well. If you’re child is below the age of 2, it would be harder to provide certain medications and creams but hopefully some of the over-the-counter remedies will help.
*Not prescribed for under the age of 2
**Could be prescribed for under the age of 2
Photography by Jonica Moore Studio for Well Rounded NY.