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Eczema in Babies and Children

Eczema is a chronic rash where the skin gets itchy and red, and develops dry patches that come and go. Children with eczema have sensitive skin compared to others, as the rash is caused by not having enough of a special protein called filaggrin, which protects the skin from the environment. Eczema sometimes runs in families and can occur with other allergic conditions, including asthma and allergies. Certain triggers like cold weather, overheating, sweating, dry air, and chlorine from swimming pools can cause flare ups. There are different types of eczema, but the most common type is called atopic dermatitis. Although eczema is not contagious, children with the condition are more prone to infections as their skin is more sensitive to germs. 


In babies, you might notice eczema starting on their cheeks, forehead, or head. The rash can spread to their knees and elbows, but usually does not go near the diaper area. Older kids and teenagers tend to get the rash in the folds of their elbows, back of knees, or on their wrists and ankles. The condition can be uncomfortable and frustrating for kids and families to deal with. Some kids will outgrow the condition, while others will continue to have eczema into adulthood. Fortunately, however, there are several ways to manage the condition and its associated problems.


Firstly, to repair the skin barrier and treat dry or cracked skin, give your child a bath every day with lukewarm water for 5 to 10 minutes. Use a gentle non-soap cleanser and avoid scrubbing the skin with anything rough. After the bath, pat your child's skin dry and apply a fragrance-free moisturizer to the whole body when the skin is still damp so that the moisture from the water is locked in (ideally within 3 minutes of getting out of the tub). When it comes to moisturizers, the thicker the better - lotions are the least effective, creams are better, and ointments are the best. Eucerin, Cetaphil, and CeraVe are good creams to use and Aquaphor or CeraVe Healing ointment are great ointment choices.


When you dress your kid, use soft fabrics like 100% cotton. Make sure to regularly wash their clothes, but only use mild, fragrance-free laundry detergents. It is recommended to not use fabric softeners or fabric sheets in the dryer.


Additionally, you'll want to keep your child's environment free of irritants, including smoke, dust, wool, and potentially animal dander. If your child is feeling itchy, advise them against scratching as that can make the problem worse and cause an infection. Instead, you can use a topical medication prescribed by the pediatrician. To help your child sleep better at night, your Pediatrician might recommend giving them an antihistamine like diphenhydramine, hydroxyzine, or Zyrtec. 


To prevent skin infections, a diluted bleach bath 2-3 times per week can be beneficial. Fill the bathtub with lukewarm water and add half a cup of plain household bleach or one-third cup of concentrated household bleach. For babies, use only 2 tablespoons of bleach in an infant tub. Soak your child for 10 minutes and make sure to supervise babies and younger children to prevent drowning accidents. At the end of the bath, pat the skin dry and apply a moisturizer.


If your child struggles with eczema, contact our office. Our pediatricians can find the right type of medicine and treatment to use. 


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