Baby eczema can look a little scary when the red, crusty patches show up on your baby's skin, often during their first few months.
Yet, baby eczema is not only common, it's also very treatable, and many infants outgrow it. Not sure if your baby's itchy, irritated rash is eczema? These questions and answers can help you understand what to look for.
What Does Baby Eczema Look Like?
Baby eczema (also called infant eczema or atopic dermatitis) appears in about 10% to15% of children. It shows up as patches of red skin. The skin is almost always itchy, dry, and rough.
While it may appear just about anywhere on a baby's body, eczema most often occurs on a baby's cheeks and at the joints of their arms and legs.
Infant eczema can be easily confused with cradle cap, another red, scaly rash of infancy. Cradle cap generally clears up by 8 months, and usually appears on the scalp, sides of the nose, eyelids and eyebrows, and behind the ears.
Why Do Babies Get Eczema?
Eczema is caused when the body makes too few ceramides. Ceramides are the fatty cells which help provide the barrier protection to the skin. If you don’t have enough of them, the skin will lose water and become very dry.
Heredity is a big factor in whether an infant gets eczema. If mom or dad have eczema, a baby is a lot more likely to develop it, too.
Defects in the skin barrier, allowing moisture out and germs in, could also be a factor.
Does Eczema in Infants Go Away by Itself?
Fortunately, most children outgrow the itchy irritation of eczema before school age.
A small number of kids will have eczema into adulthood. Remissions do happen and can last for years, though the tendency to have dry skin often lingers.
What Triggers Eczema in Children?
What triggers one infant's eczema won't trigger another's. Still, there are some common eczema triggers to avoid, including:
- Dry skin. This is often caused by low humidity, especially during winter when homes are well-heated and the air is dry. Dry skin can make a baby's eczema more itchy.
- Irritants. Think scratchy wool clothes, perfumes, body soaps, and laundry soaps. These can all trigger a baby's eczema flares.
- Stress. Children with baby eczema may react to stress by flushing, which leads to itchy, irritated skin -- and an increase in eczema symptoms.
- Heat and sweat. Both heat and sweat can make the itch of infant eczema worse.
- Allergens. There's still debate as to whether food allergies in children trigger eczema. Some experts believe that removing cow's milk, peanuts, eggs, or certain fruits from a child's diet may help control eczema symptoms.