When your baby has itchy, scaly skin that makes her scratch all day and night, you want to do whatever you can to ease her discomfort. Fortunately, several effective eczema treatments can lead to a happier baby.
Most pediatric dermatologists suggest giving you baby a bath every day if she has eczema. Baths add moisture to dry skin and get rid of surface bacteria that can cause skin infections.
“It can be fun for baby, and it's good for bonding with the parents,” says Amy S. Paller, MD, professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. “It's a wonderful way to get hydration into the skin.”
Use fragrance-free, mild soaps or soap-less cleansers intended for sensitive skin. Bathe your baby for five to 10 minutes, pat her dry to retain some moisture on her skin, then apply moisturizer.
To soothe dryness and itching, smooth moisturizer on your baby's skin at least twice a day.
Dry skin can make eczema worse and bring out more inflammation, says Lawrence F. Eichenfield, MD, professor of pediatrics and dermatology at the University of California, San Diego. Moisturizing often helps break what he calls “the itch-scratch cycle.”
Thick, moisturizing creams and ointments work better on your baby's skin than lotions, which have more water. If your doctor has prescribed anti-itch cream, apply it before the moisturizer.
You may want to switch moisturizers depending on the season. Petroleum-based ointments are ideal for cold-weather months but too thick for summertime. A lighter cream is better in warm weather.
Organic and natural baby products are popular, but most have herbs and plant-based products that can cause reactions in babies with sensitive skin.
“People think about organic products as being healthy,” says Nanette Silverberg, MD, director of pediatric dermatology at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City. “But most kids are going to be sensitive to some extract, fragrance or flowers.” Her advice? “Ask your doctor for a product line that's been tested in children and is well-proven for sensitivities.”
Consider Diluted Bleach Baths
Silverberg suggests diluted bleach baths for babies over 6 months who have moderate or severe eczema. They’re especially helpful if your baby has crusting on the skin. Bleach helps remove staph bacteria -- a known eczema trigger -- without resorting to antibiotics. Talk to your pediatrician before giving your baby a bleach bath.
Use 1 teaspoon of bleach per 1 gallon of water or ¼ cup per full bathtub.
Sounds harsh? It’s just like taking your child into a swimming pool with chlorine, Silverberg says. And your baby may have fewer flare-ups and less discomfort as a result, she says.
You can put anti-scratching mittens on a young baby’s hands to stop her from scratching. But that doesn’t work well on older babies and toddlers.
To reduce irritation, keep your child’s fingernails cut short and filed with an emery board, so they’re not sharp. If you notice your child scratching more than usual, take her to the doctor, who can prescribe anti-itch medicine.