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Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Physician Luke Yau Wai and Dr Jessica Gunawan on August 29, 2022

Tips For Soothing Eczema In Babies And Young Children

Using a gentle cleanser and moisturizing often are a few of the things you can do to alleviate eczema in babies. Here are some other tips you may not have known.

Eczema in babies min scaled

Eczema in babies is a common condition due to their ultra-sensitive skin. It may cause itching, redness, dry skin, and inflammation that can be painful to the touch. The condition can be worsened by soaps and certain environmental factors.

Although every baby is different, cases of eczema can range from mild to severe. When left untreated, it can alter your baby’s quality of life and lead to excessive fussiness.

Luckily, there are several things you can do at home to reduce symptoms of eczema in babies. Our experts provide tips for managing the condition and preventing flare-ups.

Causes Of Eczema In Babies

A baby with eczema or dry skin on the face and shoulders
Eczema in babies can occur on their faces, legs, arms, trunk, hands, and feet. The condition may range in severity.

Clinically, eczema is a skin inflammation with multiple external and internal factors. Skin lesions can present in various forms and usually have a considerable number of papules, which can leak fluid out of blood vessels and into tissues.

They lead to severe itching. A recurring condition, eczema in babies or children characteristically has overlapping and alternating acute and chronic phases. 

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the occurrence of eczema in babies or children relates to the frequent consumption of seafood or spicy foods or the experience of emotional imbalances led by hormonal changes during a woman’s pregnancy.

“These can lead to internal Liver-Heat and heaty pathogens that pass to the child in the mother’s womb,” explains Eu Yan Sang TCM Physician Luke Yau Wai. 

Types Of Eczema In Babies And How To Treat Them

There are three primary types of eczema in babies:

1. Atopic dermatitis  

The most common type of eczema is atopic dermatitis. It is caused by an allergic reaction and can persist for a long time. In babies, this skin condition starts during infancy or early childhood. Babies with a family history of eczema, asthma, or hay fever are more vulnerable to developing this condition. 

Symptoms: Atopic eczema in babies or young children presents with rashes, redness, extreme itching, dry or scaly skin, and open, weeping, or crusted sores. Infants and toddlers mostly experience symptoms of atopic dermatitis on areas of the body that are easy to scratch or rub as they crawl — such as the face, elbows, or knees. A baby’s skin can also thicken from excessive rubbing or scratching. This skin lesion is called lichenification. 

Treatment: The severity of your child’s condition can help you identify suitable treatment options. Ointments and gels that moisturize the skin can help to alleviate mild cases. Acupuncture and daily herbal baths can also help. More severe cases of eczema may need phototherapy or medications that suppress the immune system. 

2. Nummular eczema 

The cause of nummular eczema is not known. However, exceptionally dry or sensitive skin and trauma to the skin due to scrapes, abrasions, chemical burns, and insect bites can trigger this condition. It may also be a reaction to other forms of eczema and its triggers. 

Symptoms: Nummular eczema type affects people of all ages, including babies or children. It generally presents with typical coin-shaped lesions on the torso and limbs, itching or burning sensation on the skin, lesions that are crusted or oozing liquid, and scaly and inflamed skin that appears brown, red, or blushed. 

Treatment: Nummular eczema can improve with the right treatment. Usually, mid-to-high potency topical corticosteroids and antibiotics help to treat the condition. “If your child has eczema patches that weep or ooze, you can apply an astringent compress to dry the area and to clear up infections caused by the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria,” says Physician Luke

3. Seborrheic dermatitis 

A close-up of a baby's head with seborrheic dermatitis or cradle cap
Babies usually experience seborrheic dermatitis in the form of “cradle cap” or dry skin on the scalp.

Like nummular eczema, this chronic condition can affect people of all ages, including infants and young children. This eczema type links to the large number of oil-producing glands present in certain areas of the body, including the nose, scalp, and upper back. 

Symptoms: Babies usually experience seborrheic dermatitis on the scalp called ‘cradle cap.’ This condition presents with scaly, greasy patches all over the scalp, which can also develop on your baby’s bottom. You may mistake it for a diaper rash.

Treatment: Treatment for the condition aims to reduce itching, remove, and calm the inflammation that causes redness and swelling. In mild cases, emollients such as mineral oil or petroleum jelly can help loosen the scales.

A skincare routine that includes washing affected areas with a zinc-based cleanser and applying a moisturizer is recommended for more severe forms of seborrheic dermatitis. If the condition is very severe, a dermatologist may prescribe the intermittent use of immunosuppressant medicines or topical corticosteroids. 

TCM Treatments For Eczema In Babies

According to TCM, three conditions contribute to eczema, each requiring a specific treatment protocol:  

  • Wind-Heat: Treatment for eczema due to Wind-Heat will prioritize clearing Heat and dispelling Wind. You can use weeping forsythia (Lianqiao) and Dictamni Cortex (Baixianpi). 
  • Damp-Heat: You can address this condition by using herbs like Scutellariae Radix (Huangqin) and Amur cork tree bark (Huang Bai) to clear Heat and eliminate Dampness.  
  • Weak Spleen: Herbs like Pseudostellariae radix (Taizishen) and white atractylodes rhizome (Baizhu) can invigorate qi and strengthen the Spleen.  

Separately, consuming Si Shen Soup and Bu Qi Jian Zhong pills may improve your baby’s digestive health and support eczema treatment. A herbal mixture for bathing is also suitable for clearing Heat and relieving eczema symptoms in babies.

Tips For Preventing Eczema In Babies

Image of a woman's hand applying lotion to a newborn baby's ankle
Using a gentle cleanser and applying moisturizing cream can help keep your baby’s skin healthy.

Lifestyle changes can also help in the care and prevention of eczema. Physician Luke shares a few essential tips:  

  • Avoid washing affected skin areas with soap, hot water, or other irritants.
  • Use a gentle cleanser on your baby’s skin during bath time that is free from irritants.  
  • Never use a potent detergent to wash your baby’s clothes.  
  • Ensure that affected areas of skin are clean and well-ventilated.  
  • Wipe off milk and food stains as well as excessive sweat immediately. 
  • Prevent scratching by applying a moisturizing body lotion to dry skin and lesions. 

Many treatments are available to manage eczema in babies. For example, medication and the adjunctive use of herbal remedies can help to alleviate eczema’s uncomfortable symptoms. However, it’s advisable to talk to a healthcare provider and a TCM practitioner beforehand so that you can have a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

References

  1. National Eczema Association. Atopic Dermatitis in Children
  2. National Eczema Association. Nummular Eczema
  3. National Eczema Association. Seborrheic Dermatitis. 
  4. BMC. 2021. Integrated Chinese and western medicine interventions for atopic dermatitis: a systematic review and meta-analysis

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