Infant Eczema: 3 Ways to Ease Discomfort

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Wesley Eczema Face

Within a couple of weeks of our littlest guy being born, his skin broke out in eczema combined with an atrocious case of cradle cap. The poor guy was a mess. It was a long road of doctors visits and specialist referrals before I got on a program that really helped him out.

I found navigating the world of skin disorders very difficult and had to push to be referred to both a pediatric dermatologist and an allergist, both of whom helped us tremendously. I want to share what I have learned because there are some things you can do to provide some relief to your little one and I know how distressing it can feel to be at as loss as to how to help your child.

How Do I Know If My Child Has Eczema?

If you’re reading this you likely already know what eczema is and what it looks like. But if you suspect your child might have it, it can be diagnosed by your pediatrician. Eczema can range in severity; my eldest had seasonal eczema that would flare up during the dry winters in two small patches on his legs. It was easily treatable with a heavy cream like Eucerin. Make sure you choose the tub version of the cream it works better to protect the skin, the pump is lotion and is watered down so is not as effective for treating this.

My youngest’s eczema was far more severe, it covered his entire body and required a more stringent protocol of treatment. This is what he looked like on his worst day when I was beside myself about how we were supposed to help him. I took him to the pediatrician that afternoon and asked for a referral to a pediatric dermatologist, who finally set us on the right path.

Wesley Eczema Legs
This picture was taken at 5 months.  Poor little guy, never ever complained about it.

Treatments for Eczema

The main goal of all of the eczema treatments is keeping the skin calm. There is a popular belief among doctors that flared skin causes a child to develop food allergies and not the reverse, that eczema is a skin reaction to food allergies, as once believed.

Here are three high level things that worked for us that you can try to help alleviate some discomfort:

  • Bathing
  • Skin Care regimen (I called it our lotions and potions program)
  • Vitamin D

Bathing*

    • Every day for 10-15 minutes
    • Water temperature should be lukewarm – the cooler the better while still being a comfortable bath temperature, hot water causes skin to become itchy
      • avoid scrubbing with a washcloth, just soak
      • Our dermatologist recommended Mustela Stelatopia Milky Bath Oil to use in the bath.  Warning, if you use this your child becomes VERY SLIPPERY!
      • For a body wash there are a number of mild brands that I have used and been happy with: Aquaphor Baby Gentle Wash & Shampoo (available in the US/not CAN); Cetaphil and CeraVe – anything that is free of perfumes or dyes works.
    • Gently pat dry – apply lotions and potions before skin dries (within 3 minutes)

Skin Care Regimen

The key to making this work is sticking with it and working with your dermatologist (or pediatrician) to find the right base product for your child that will keep the skin from flaring up. It might not make the eczema totally disappear, but it will keep it from being painful and itchy.

When our son’s skin was at its worst we put 3-4 different lotions on him twice every day. Once in the morning before dressing him and once after his bath at night. We use a topical steroid when the flare-ups are really bad and experimented with a few different base layers for the times when his skin is calmer, both prescription and over the counter. The one he responded to best is a homeopathic remedy called Florasone Cream. We follow this up with a layer of an oil that our dermatologist sold in his office that is a mixture of sunflower oil and coconut oil. Then to seal it all in we use a final layer of Cetaphil (tub version).

Cliff notes version:

  • Base layer
    • topical steroid (prescription) where the skin is severe (red, itchy)
    • or Florasone Cream where the skin is better, still eczema but not red and itchy
  • Nourishing Skin Oil
    • I don’t know any brand other than the one our dermatologist in Chicago sold. When we moved to Toronto they said we could keep ordering it or just use a mix of Sunflower oil and Coconut Oil. It is extremely messy, because it is an oil but really helped.
  • Top Cream
    • This layer seals it all in, I prefer Cetaphil, but CeraVe, Eucerin, Vaniply Ointment all work just as well, again make sure it is the tub of cream, not the pump.

Vitamin D

We used to add Vitamin D to his bottles and now he gets a dropper of it every morning. Vitamin D is often used to help with skin conditions; it is a good vitamin for everybody especially those of us living in colder climates, or anyone that doesn’t expose their skin to the sun very often.  Everyone in my family takes it, adults included.

Products to Avoid

After a lot of trial and error and slowly eliminating products that seemed to irritate his skin I have come up with a list of things I would avoid from the beginning if I were to do it over again.

  • Detergent
    • Infant detergent like Dreft, Purex baby, or Ivory Snow while sensitive for infants still irritated my son’s skin so we switched to Tide Free and Gentle (dryer sheets too) for him and then eventually I started washing all of our clothes in it since the irritants of regular perfumed Tide would bother his skin if I was holding him.
  • Scented Lotions and Perfumes
    • I also switched my own body lotion to Cetaphil when he was an infant and I held him more because I noticed he would get irritated by my lotion if our skin made contact.
    • I made the mistake of treating his cradle cap with Mustela Foam Shampoo for Newborns, which was awesome and I would highly recommend it for cradle cap, but NOT for a child with eczema, it is perfumed and caused a lot of skin issues on the rest of his body.
  • Plastics
    • I had a plastic Baby Bjorn bib that rubbed up against his chin and irritated his skin, same with Sophie the giraffe and most chewable teething toys. So we switched to wood toys and some fabric covered ones.
  • Fleece
    • My other two kids had fleece blankets that they slept with as toddlers, but those irritated his skin so we went with the muslin ones from Aden and Anais.

 Wesley 18 months
It was a long slow road to having his skin clear up and it was finally looking better at about 15 months. This photo was taken when he was around 18 months and his skin was the best it had looked his entire life. Awww, so cute. (Excuse the messy clothes, but I was trying to use a picture that showed his skin.) He is now 2 ½ and we mostly use just the Cetaphil cream on him twice a day and still use non-perfumed detergents and body soaps.

Eczema can be a tough challenge to manage and just because he seems to be okay now doesn’t mean he will be that way for good. It is something he will have to manage his whole life but with the right guidance from his dermatologist, he’ll be just fine.

Do any of your kids have eczema or skin issues? What has worked for them? Do you know if they are tied to anything? Is there a connection to allergies in your kids at all? I’m curious to know what other people have done since it is so common in children.

 

*We also included Bleach Baths as part of our routine, nearly every other day when his skin was at its worst. I opted not to go into detail about that because the notes I have from my doctor say that it should only be done under the supervision of a health care provider.  I don’t want anyone to have issues based on something I said. However, if it is recommended to you, it sounds terrifying but it works well, I think they should come up with a different name for it so it doesn’t sound so caustic. Anyhow, I am a proponent of Bleach Baths, but you should ask your child’s doctor before you try them.

shine-on-post-signoff-final

~Sarah

 

Note: I used affiliate links, if you purchase these products from these sites with this link then the site you purchase from will give me a referral fee.

You can purchase most of these products pretty much anywhere but I find it helpful to see the physical packaging of products that people are talking about so I know I’m buying the right thing, so I wanted to include the links.

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Comments

  1. Joellyn says

    I was so excited to hear about your story…because we went through the exact same issue!! My son started exhibiting eczema at 1 month old on his cheeks and we didn’t find out until he was 3 months old when he was covered head to toe in eczema and had a terrible case of cradle cap and after switching formulas every 2 weeks for 2 months that he was allergic to our dog. Obviously we had to find a new home for our dog, but we have battled with treating eczema since (he’s now 7 years old). We treat the “itchy spots” with very small amounts of Mometasone, then cover him head to toe with Hylatopic lotion, then coat him with Gentle Natural’s Baby Eczema cream….the Gentle Natural’s seems to seal all the cream in. This seems to work for now!

    • says

      Joellyn! I’m so happy to hear you say that you’ve gone through the same thing! I have yet to run across someone that has experienced this with their child, so its nice to know I’m not alone. It takes so much trial and error trying to figure out what is causing the issue, doesn’t it? Thanks so much for sharing. Best to you and your family, Sarah

        • says

          Hi Craig,

          I’m sure your wife has tried everything under the sun but I’m happy to share my experience. I would avoid soap to be honest, Cetaphil makes a cleanser that takes the place of soap – we use the fragrance free one (the one with fragrance still will irritate my son’s skin). I use it for everything, hands, face, body, I actually use it as his shampoo too (not that she would want to do that).

          Hope that helps. Sarah

  2. Jennifer says

    Seems strange to thank you for your child having eczema but I am thankful for your experience and now wisdom on this issue. My son is 4 months old and we have been battling eczema for 2 months with very little results. I have spent a small fortune on “lotions and potions” myself. I am going to try the regimen that has worked for you – I am determined and hopeful. Wish me luck!
    Thanks again!

    • says

      Thanks for your note Jennifer. I do wish you the very best of luck. It may feel like you are getting nowhere for a while but eventually it gets better. If you have any questions along the way, please feel free to send me a note and I’d be happy to share any information I have. You’ve got this :) Sarah

  3. Ava says

    Thank you for this post! Two years ago I began battling eczema with my first son from the age of 3 months onward; we found a regimen that worked for us and a dermatologist we adore, so when my second son (now 3 months) started getting patches behind his knees and in his elbows, I thought I had things under control.

    That was until this afternoon, when I changed his diaper and discovered his neck and entire torso covered in bright red, blistered, flaking eczema, the likes of which my first son never even came close to. I applied our go-to lotion… and was almost in tears when an hour later it looked EVEN WORSE. No chance of seeing the pediatrician before Monday, so I called the dermatologist’s office, only to find that she’s out of the office for the next two months. In desperation, I washed him with straight almond oil and I’m relieved to say that a few hours later he’s looking much better.

    I want to tell you that I was so happy to read your experience so that I could compare our routines and products; we are doing so many of the same things, but I’m looking forward to trying some of the products that worked for you so we can get back to healthy, unbroken skin. (Also, it helps to feel you’re not alone; a little commiseration goes a long way toward dispelling a bit of panic.)

    • Beatriz says

      Sarah,
      Thanks for your post very useful! I have a 3 month old girl primarily affected on her face and behind the knees. Can you comment on:
      1. At what time do you put the bath oil in the bath tub. After you have washed baby with baby wash (ie aquaphor), or do you put the bath oil in the water from the very begining?
      2. Did you ever use white petroleum jelly or hydrolatum?
      Thanks
      Beatriz

      • says

        Hi Beatriz,
        I’m so happy you found this post useful! To answer your questions:
        1)I put the bath oil in at the very beginning, it will make her very slippery though (just a warning). I was told by a couple of different doctor sources that the PH balance of tap water can be very uncomfortable for kids with eczema and that adding the oil to the water makes it soothe the skin instead of irritate it. So they recommended putting it in right from the start.
        2)I didn’t ever use white petroleum jelly or hydrolatum. I’m not sure I know what hydrolatum is. White petroleum jelly would probably be used like aquaphor, right? Just coating the skin as a protectant? Initially I was told to use aquaphor to get rid of the eczema. And maybe that works for mild cases but it didn’t work for us.
        Oh, one other thing I would suggest, for the backs of her knees, especially as the weather gets warmer. Getting some loose fitting long pants/leggings for her to wear when you’re out and about, it helps keep the lotions/creams from rubbing off and will also keep her skin from getting irritated by other fabrics.
        Good luck and please let me know if you have any other questions that come up.
        Sarah

  4. Colette Tobias says

    A really safe way to help eczema is with arbonne baby line products! The diaper rash cream combined with skin conditioning oil works really well with no chemicals on the skin to help with the healing process!

  5. Cheryl says

    Just wanted to chime in that I tried Tide free and it still irritated my little guy’s skin. I switched to the president’s choice (superstore, loblaws, etc) baby detergent and haven’t had any problems. My little guy drooled a lot and I had to get plastic backed bibs to keep his chest dry…constant wetness was really irritating. I always made sure there was clothing between the plastic and his skin. My guy seemed to grow out of most of it, he just turned four.

  6. Sarika Menon says

    Hi, thabk you for your post. You mentioned that mustela wasnt helful for the scaly scalp…i had the same experience. Did anything help with the scalp? Ive tried all kids of frgranxe free shampoos and oils ans nothing seems to help…

    • says

      Hi Sarika,
      Sorry for the delay in responding, we were on spring break and I wanted to be looking at the bottle when I answered you. So yes, I had exactly the same trouble as you, tried all kinds of fragrance free shampoos, olive oil, bath oils. Nothing worked, he was still scaly and flaky all the time. Our pediatric allergist recommended DHS Zinc Shampoo, I was able to get it over the counter at the Pharmacy. When he was an infant they recommended diluting it in water. And you don’t want to get it in their eyes (it burns), but it worked really well for him. You might want to check with your pediatrician before you use it to see if it would be good for you and to find out what proportion of shampoo to water you should be diluting. Hope that helps. Sarah

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