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Eczema in babies

Red eczema rash on ankle of baby
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Have you noticed patches of dry, red, scaly skin on your little one's face or body? If so, they may be experiencing eczema, a very common childhood skin complaint.

What is baby eczema?

Baby eczema is eczema that occurs in infants and young children. It’s a very common condition, affecting one in five children in the UK, and in many cases it’s something that improves significantly with age*. One study has shown that 74% of children are free of eczema by the time they reach the age of 16.**

What causes eczema in babies and children?

The type of eczema that most commonly affects babies and children is atopic eczema. This is where the immune system “overreacts” to external stimuli, causing an allergic reaction that results in a flare-up of skin symptoms.

Many children who have eczema also have asthma, hay fever or food allergies – there might also be a history of allergies in the child’s family.

Because atopic eczema is essentially caused by an allergic reaction, it’s a condition that will have a variety of triggers. In other words, you may notice that certain things set off eczema symptoms in your child.

These might include:

  • Having dry skin
  • Very hot or cold weather
  • Soaps and detergents
  • Different foods
  • Dust, pollen or animal hair

What are the symptoms of baby eczema?

The characteristic symptom of atopic eczema is dry, itchy skin that may also be scaly, red, inflamed and sore. It may also crack and bleed.

Eczema can develop anywhere on the body, but in young children it is commonly found on the face, head and scalp, and in the creases around the neck, behind the knees and inside the elbows. You might see small red patches that look dry and scaly, or notice that your child is scratching the same areas repeatedly.

A risk of eczema is that the skin becomes infected. This can happen if the skin cracks open due to dryness, or if it breaks after being scratched. If you notice the following symptoms, it’s a sign that your child’s eczema has become infected:

  • Fluid oozing from the skin
  • Yellow crust or yellow-white spots on the skin
  • Inflamed, painful skin
  • High temperature and generally feeling unwell

You should take your child to see a doctor as soon as possible if you suspect that they have a skin infection.

It’s recommended that you keep your child’s fingernails cut short to minimise damage from scratching and reduce the risk of infection. Your child could also wear cotton gloves or socks at night time.

How to treat baby eczema

Baby eczema is treated in largely the same way as adult eczema. The initial treatment for eczema is emollients. These are cleansers and moisturisers that are specifically designed for very dry skin. They create a barrier on the skin, sealing in moisture, reducing inflammation and itchiness, and helping to prevent flare-ups.

Bath oils

A popular treatment for babies with eczema is a bath emollient, which is added to the water you wash your child in. Bath oils such as Oilatum help to clean and moisturise the skin, without drying them out. After bathing you should gently pat your child’s skin dry and apply an emollient moisturiser.

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Moisturising emollients come as lotions, creams and ointments and are a key part of eczema treatment. They should be applied liberally across your child’s skin at least twice a day. You should gently smooth in the moisturiser rather than rubbing it in.

Many different moisturisers are available, but only selected products, such as childs farm baby moisturiserare approved for use as an eczema emollient. If your child has baby eczema, it’s a good idea to look out for products that are licensed for use on eczema, or have been approved as a treatment by dermatologists.

If in doubt, speak to one of our Pharmacists for a recommendation.

Medicated creams

It may be that your child’s eczema requires medicated treatment. One popular product that is very mildly medicated is sudocrem antiseptic. This is commonly used to treat nappy rash, but can also be used for eczema in babies and young children. Sudocrem has antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and moisturising properties, making it a great option for mild eczema flare-ups.

If your child’s eczema is moderate or severe they may require a cream or ointment that contains corticosteroids. Some topical corticosteroids are available over the counter in pharmacies, which means you can buy them without a prescription after talking to the pharmacist. They are also available to order on LloydsPharmacy.com, however you will need to answer a few questions, so our pharmacy team can ensure this product is right for you.

However, these products tend to be for use by children and adults over the age of 10 or 12. If you’re using a topical corticosteroid on a baby or child, your pharmacist may recommend that you speak to a doctor to make sure it’s safe.

How can you prevent baby eczema?

It’s not possible to prevent your child from developing eczema. However, you can keep the condition well managed by doing the following:

  • Moisturising your baby’s skin with emollients at least twice a day
  • Washing your baby with gentle, fragrance-free and hypoallergenic cleansers and bath oils – avoid anything soapy as this can dry out and irritate the skin
  • Switching to a sensitive laundry detergent that won’t irritate their skin
  • Keeping their bedroom cool, as heat and sweating can trigger and exacerbate the condition
  • Keeping your home clean and clear of dust, mould, damp and animal hair
  • Trying to identify (and avoid) any allergies or triggers that seem to cause flare-ups

Lastly, it’s important to stop your baby or child from scratching their eczema. You can help prevent scratching by regularly applying emollients and any required medicated ointments. Another option is to buy your baby some anti-scratch mittens.