Welcoming a new baby into the world is a joyous and exciting time. New members of the family inspire love, laughter and happiness. However, a new baby also provides new challenges for parents. Most commonly this will come in the form of a few sleepless nights. However, one can also see face new challenges in the form of skin conditions, namely infant eczema.
Infant eczema is an unfortunate, but treatable problem that approximately 10-15% of infants face. Eczema can be seen in the appearance of red, scaly patches of skin that appear on a baby’s body. While these patches are most commonly seen on the cheeks, forehead, and scalp for infants, they can appear anywhere. Eczema occurs when one’s body does not produce enough ceramides. Ceramides are fatty cells which provide a protective barrier for the skin. A lack of ceramides leaves the skin more vulnerable to outside harming agents and thus the skin develops a red, scaly rash.
If an infant develops eczema, it is important to know the triggers in an attempt to avoid outbreaks. Common triggers include dry weather, skin irritants such as soaps, perfumes, and scratchy fabrics, high temperatures and sweating, and possibly allergens. When one is aware of potential eczema flairs, one can be prepared to stem the oncoming outbreak or stop it all together. Employing practices such as using very mild soap not only in the bath but in all areas of the house will help lessen eczema’s severity. It is also important to closely examine and feel any clothing an infant will wear in order to ward off outbreaks from scratchy, uncomfortable outfits. Finally, the most important thing is to keep eczema in mind when going about daily business, from checking the weather for humidity levels to choosing not to wear perfume in order to avoid an outbreak. Daily vigilance is the best way to keep eczema at bay.
However, while vigilance is essential, some eczema outbreaks are unavoidable. Thus, carrying some of the eczema treatments which are available on hand is always a good choice. To start, it is important to always have a moisturizer on hand. When selecting a moisturizer, be sure it is mild and fragrance free. Also, read the ingredient list as a true moisturizer will have few ingredients and a high oil and water content. A simple, inexpensive moisturizer to try is petroleum jelly. It is important to note that infants suffering from eczema should be moisturized at least twice daily with a liberal amount of moisturizer. However, if moisturizer isn’t doing the trick, a lukewarm bath can help ease itching and redness. Remember to again moisturize after bath time is over. Another way to fight infant eczema is to increase the omega-3 fatty acids a baby receives in an attempt to increase ceramide production. If breastfeeding, adding a fish oil supplement to one’s diet can help the baby’s build up of fatty acids. If one is formula feeding, ensure that the formula is rich in DHA, a natural omega-3 fatty acid. Finally, speak to a pediatrician about the severity of an infant’s eczema as it may be necessary to treat eczema with a prescription topical steroid ointment.
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