Eczema in babies and small children is referred to as Infantile Atopic Eczema and usually begins between the ages of 3 and 6 months. Characteristically, a rash develops on the cheeks, forehead and scalp which then spreads to other areas. Places one is likely to find eczema on the eczema baby are the creases behind the ears, on the buttocks, at the backs of knees and on the elbows and wrists. In serious cases, the baby is literally covered from head to toe with eczema. The eczema rash may be dry but more commonly it is a wet rash with weeping blisters and intensely Itchy! Although there are no hard-and-fast rules, by the age of 5, the eczema baby should have grown out of it.
It is rare for eczema to leave physical scars in babies and children. Instead, emphasis should be placed on the prevention of emotional scars as the eczema baby grows up. It is up to the parent to ensure that the child will experience a “normal” childhood.
It is vital not to show a preference for the child with eczema when there are other siblings in the family. The eczema baby can be helped to forget about their skin condition if they have plenty to occupy them. Once old enough for playgroup it is a good idea to discuss your child’s eczema and how it is managed with teachers and staff.
It is extremely frustrating for the parent of the eczema baby as their is no way of explaining to him or her why they are feeling miserable or itchy. Children learn by playing so make their skin care routine as interesting and as fun as possible. Bandage your child’s favorite toy or sing nursery rhymes as you apply the cream! As they get older they will perform these rituals on their own, creating an environment where the condition is less disruptive and they don’t feel resentful about their condition.
The eczema baby normally starts scratching once asleep and then wakes due to the irritation. A great way of dealing with this is to use a wonderful technique known as Wet Wrapping. This is a bandaging technique whereby a warm, wet bandage is bound around the (already creamed) eczema area, followed by a layer of dry bandage. The wet wrap keeps the skin cool, prevents scratching and increases the absorption of the cream. (Our very own EczeMend wet wrap is a strip of pure seaweed peeled to the innermost cuticle and used as a ‘bandage’). Scratching can also be prevented by making use of mittens on the eczema baby’s hands but be aware to take the mittens off when the child is awake as children learn by touch and feel.
Research shows that breastfeeding actively helps in preventing babies from becoming allergic to cow’s milk (a common trigger in eczema). It is believed that antibodies in breast milk help prime the baby’s immune system so that they are less susceptible to allergens. One of the most helpful things you can do is to try and breastfeed your baby for the first four to six months. Do not despair if you cannot or don’t want to breastfeed your baby, there are many excellent alternative formulas to breast milk available on the market. Keep in mind though that this process may be trial and error as you will have to take note of the ingredients to prevent different allergic reactions.
Weaning is the process by which your baby learns to take foods other than milk and to take food from a spoon or cup rather than sucking at the nipple or teat. It would be recommended that egg, wheat, cheese and milk products not be fed to the eczema baby until he/she is over a year old. It is a good idea to choose a baby cereal based on rice or another grain. When you do begin with the suspect foods, start in small amounts and monitor for reactions. Remember that if you reduce your baby’s milk intake you must replace essential nutrients such as calcium, vitamins and proteins otherwise your child will not grow as he or she should.