This is horrible for any parent to witness and baby to experience and if they're awake in the night to scratch, both you and your baby are probably not getting the sleep you need. This might make them grumpier during the day - tough for sleep-deprived parents - especially when you're trying to figure out how to ease the symptoms of baby eczema.
Although this can feel quite severe due to your child being so young, it's important to know that baby eczema is very common and also treatable. In this guide, we'll aim to help you understand baby eczema symptoms, the most common signs and causes of eczema in babies and tips on how to treat baby eczema and, in particular, winter eczema1.
1. Baby eczema symptoms
2. Baby eczema causes
3. Baby eczema in winter
4. Tips for how to treat baby eczema
5. Life after baby eczema
1. Baby eczema symptoms
Baby eczema typically presents itself as a scaly, red rash but here are the most common signs of eczema in babies2:
Redness – Their skin may appear red and angry looking.
Dry and itchy skin – This is one of the most common signs of eczema in babies, skin can appear flaky and your baby may want to scratch it.
Scales and bumps on the skin that can appear ‘weepy’ then crust over – This is nothing to worry about but it’s important you keep the skin clean to avoid any infection or further irritation.
Where is my baby most likely to develop eczema?
Interestingly, your baby is likely to have eczema on different parts of their body depending on their age3. According to the National Eczema Association, babies up to six months of age are more likely to develop baby eczema on their face - mainly the cheeks, chin, forehead and also the scalp.
Little ones from six months to a year old will often experience eczema patches on elbows and knees. Toddlers might then get it in knee and elbow creases, on hands, ankles and wrists and also on their eyelids and around the mouth4.
2. Baby eczema causes
Unfortunately, there isn't one exact cause of baby eczema, however, it happens as a result of the immune system overreacting to a combination of environmental and also genetic factors5. For instance, it can be hereditary, so if a parent has eczema their baby might be more likely to develop it as well.
Here are some of the most common baby eczema causes:
Family history of eczema, allergies, or asthma6
Allergens - pet fur, dust, etc7
Saliva from drooling - therefore teething might be a particular trigger
Heat and sweating
Winter weather8910 – this can lead to winter eczema in babies and is more common if they already suffer from sensitive skin.
3. Winter eczema and how to treat it
Winter and the cooler months bring cold dry air which makes it hard for a baby’s skin to retain moisture. Lack of moisture can cause itchiness and irritation and for a baby who suffers from eczema, this sensitivity is heightened1112 and requires careful management.
Many things can lead to baby eczema in the winter. The constant switch between the cold, windy conditions outside and the warm air of a heater can irritate the skin. Even certain clothing such as heavy woollen fabrics can irritate.
To help your baby combat winter eczema you might want to consider the following13:
Continue with your normal baby eczema treatment routine – you’ll find our recommendations on how to treat eczema below.
Moisturise with a thick cream or ointment before bed.
Opt for clothing with breathable fabric - nothing that will make them too hot.
Regulate the temperature of their environment.
4. Baby eczema tips: how to treat baby eczema
There are many ways to soothe your little one's discomfort when dealing with a baby eczema flare-up, which can be incredibly reassuring as a new parent. These baby eczema tips apply whether your little one is dealing with baby eczema in winter or as a reaction to an allergen. You'll be relieved to discover there are lots of things you can do for your baby and the skin condition they've developed.
Here are our tips on how to treat baby eczema14:
Bathe and moisturize your baby daily – using a mild cleanser and warm water - ensure the bath lasts no longer than 15 minutes. For more tips check out our how to bathe a newborn article.
Rinse your baby's skin and pat them dry very gently after their bath – then apply an ointment or moisturizer free of any fragrance.
Moisturize at least twice a day – and if you're changing the product you use on your baby's skin, test it on a small area first.
Talk to your doctor about creams – Depending on the severity of your baby's eczema, you might also consider talking to your doctor about using medicated ointment or cream to treat baby eczema.
Reduce scratching – Try to reduce scratching as this can damage the skin and make eczema worse. Try popping cotton anti-scratch mittens on their hands for bedtime and also try to keep your baby’s nails short and clean. Check out our article for more tips on how to prevent your baby from scratching their face.
Choose non-irritating fabrics and products – Avoid clothing them in irritating fabrics or using harsh soaps as these irritants might exacerbate their eczema. Opt for only the purest products for your baby’s skin. WaterWipes are accredited by the National Eczema Association in the US.
Cotton clothing is best – Instead of irritating garments, opt for loose-fitting clothing, ideally made from cotton.
Keep their room cool – Heat can aggravate baby eczema, so keep the rooms in your home cool, especially your baby's bedroom15.
The importance of choosing the right products when treating baby eczema
When treating a baby eczema flare-up, the products that you use are very important. Many products such as baby washes and wet wipes contain harsh chemicals that can aggravate a baby’s delicate skin and can cause more harm than good. Even products that claim natural ingredients can be found to contain chemicals that irritate a newborn baby’s thin, delicate skin.
Lois Wattis, a nurse and author, has shared her views on how parents need to be very wary of the products they use on their sensitive newborn’s skin.
“I have been a nurse for more than 18 years and have seen too many newborn babies develop angry red rashes due to the chemicals in many ‘brand-name’ baby products,” she said.
“I first came across WaterWipes about five years ago and recommend the brand in my book simply because I have seen first-hand the ramifications of using wipes with harsh chemicals.
Not just for babies either – I have seen mothers who have developed skin reactions on their fingers and hands from the on-going use of other baby wipes filled with chemicals.”
“Doctors recommend parents of new babies to simply use water and cloth for diaper changes at home – especially for those who have skin conditions such as eczema. This isn’t always possible of course so the only baby wipe I recommend to new moms and dads is WaterWipes,” said Wattis.
5. Life after baby eczema
"I hadn’t actually realized how much Maya’s eczema had affected us until it stopped," says her dad, Aran. ‘We used to co-sleep and honestly, that first night we weren’t woken up by her scratching... I can’t think of many times I’ve felt happier!’
If you are ever worried about your baby’s skin, always consult a healthcare professional like your doctor, pharmacist, or health visitor.
Skin complaints such as eczema can be difficult to deal with and uncontrollable factors such as winter weather can take a toll on everyone’s skin, especially the sensitive skin of a baby. So when treating a nasty eczema flare-up, due to winter weather or for other reasons, look to the wipes that were designed specifically to heal your baby’s delicate skin.
WaterWipes baby wipes are suitable for sensitive skin and are the only wet wipe to be approved by Allergy UK and awarded the National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance. They are also now approved by Skin Health Alliance. Our wipes are made using only purified water and a drop of fruit extract which ensures your baby’s delicate skin is cared for with minimal risk of causing an eczema flare-up.
If you found our baby eczema tips article useful, why not check out our other baby skin articles on our Parenting Community: