What is eczema?
Eczema is the name of a group of conditions that cause the skin to become red, itchy and inflamed. There are two main types, atopic eczema and contact dermatitis. Atopic eczema is caused by problems from within the body. If you have this type of eczema, you are likely to have been born with the tendency for skin inflammation. On the other hand, contact dermatitis is triggered by factors outside the body, resulting in patches of inflammation on the areas of the skin that has come into contact with the substance.
Eczema is very common affecting at least 17.8 million people in the US alone. It is more prevalent in babies and children than in adults. However, in most cases, it becomes better as the babies grow into their teens, with symptoms either reducing or being completely healed.
If your baby has eczema, their skin is often dry, scaly and red with small scratch marks. This is caused by itching and can be uncomfortable for your little one. You’ll also find that your baby’s cheeks are often the first place to be affected by eczema.
What causes eczema in babies has been a hotly debated topic in the medical field. While the actual cause of your baby’s eczema is unknown, it is commonly linked to both genetic and environmental factors. In this article, we’ll explore the ten most common triggers of baby eczema.
1. Dry skin
One of our skin’s job is to lock in moisture. When your baby’s skin is dry, it’s a sign that their skin’s barrier isn’t functioning properly. Moisture is not being retained, drying out your baby’s skin and leaving them vulnerable to microbial attacks. Dry air can also further aggravates their skin. The low humidity can easily and instantly target their skin, making it the cause of eczema in babies.
With proper moisturising, you can help your baby’s skin by restoring its hydration levels and protecting the skin from microbial attacks. Organic skincare products with natural emollients like shea butter or cocoa butter form a protective barrier to hydrate the skin.
2. Soaps and detergents
Soaps and detergents strip your baby’s skin of its natural oils, making it dry, itchy and more sensitive to irritants. Avoid strongly perfumed soaps and detergents that can be harsh on your little one’s skin. Instead, opt for organic skincare products that are fragrance-free and gentle on your baby’s skin. Little Botanic’s Rescue Balm is a great healing balm with botanical ingredients like shea butter and chamomile. This organic skincare balm soothes skin prone to eczema, dermatitis, rashes and more.
3. Environmental irritants
Environmental triggers like pollen, smoke and dander can aggravate eczema. These triggers can be minimised but never completely avoided. While you can’t always protect your baby’s skin from these factors, it can help to reduce their risk by minimising their contact with the environmental irritants.
As the clothes come into direct contact with your baby’s skin, it’s important to be cautious when choosing clothes for your baby. Certain fabrics can be hard on your baby’s fragile skin and cause irritation. Synthetic and tight-fitting clothes are not breathable fabrics and can make eczema worse. Steer clear of thick fabrics such as wool as they can also worsen the symptoms of eczema. Opt for breathable fabric like cotton or cotton blends and make sure to wash new clothing with mild or unscented laundry detergent.
5. Food allergies
The most common foods that cause eczema symptoms include cows’ milk, eggs, soy, wheat, fish and nuts. Eczema is complex so your baby’s eczema might be triggered by multiple factors. Identify what foods are making your little one’s eczema worse. If you do suspect their eczema is due to food allergies, do consult a medical professional before eliminating it from their diet!
Extreme temperatures and humidity can trigger eczema in some babies. In the winter months, cold and damp air can result in chapped skin which triggers your baby’s eczema. Hot and dry air caused by fires or central heating can further dry out your baby’s sensitive skin. To help your baby’s skin, apply Little Botanic’s Rescue Balm. It forms an anti-inflammatory protective barrier on your little one’s skin to lock in moisture and prevent their skin from drying out.
Don’t forget to stay cool in the summer time! The heat of summer causes your baby to sweat so make sure they play in the shade and use sunscreen with gentle ingredients like titanium dioxide.
While it’s not yet fully understood, some believe stress plays a role in eczema outbreaks and results in a vicious cycle. Babies with eczema easily react to stress, causing eczema to flare up and further increase their symptoms; this discomfort in turn stresses them out even more. Consider using anti-scratch mittens for your little ones and moisturise with organic skincare products.
8. House dust mites
Another culprit of eczema is house dust. Many people suffering from eczema are allergic to house dust mites. House dust mites are microscopic insects that live in every home. They generally thrive in bedrooms and mattresses as part of the dust. While it is impossible to get rid of house dust mites completely, it is helpful to reduce exposure by regularly vacuuming the house and keeping their soft toys and clothes in cupboards.
Pet allergens include dander, saliva, urine, and any dust, mould or pollen that gets into pet hair. Dogs, cats, birds, and hamsters all carry allergens that can trigger your baby’s eczema. If you suspect a pet might be the cause, try removing it to see if the symptoms improve. If you can’t bear to part with your pets, at least keep them out of your baby’s bedroom or limit them to a small area of your home.
10. Mouldy environments
We all can spot mould by its distinctive grey or white fuzz on food and in humid places. Mould can also lurk around a dry and damp proof home – in the warm and damp bathrooms, around tumble driers, and even by window frames. Mould causes eczema to worsen when it settles on the skin and infects any open eczema lesions and cuts. Mould on your baby’s skin can alter the microbes growing there and potentially weaken their skin’s physical barrier.
What can I do about it?
Most people with eczema use topical treatments such as lotions, creams and ointments. Emollients such as shea butter and cocoa butter moisturise your baby’s skin and prevent further water loss. They are essential in managing eczema, even when the eczema is well controlled. Look for organic skincare products with these ingredients in it.