Like ear infections, pink eye, and the common cold, skin rashes are an ordinary part of growing up. In particular, babies and young toddlers often suffer from unpleasant skin irritations that can lead to some serious scratching. If you have noticed that your little one has been scratching more than usual, or if his skin looks patchy, red, or inflamed, he may be suffering from eczema. Eczema is a very common skin rash that can be treated by taking the appropriate treatment measures.

What is Eczema?
Eczema is a very common skin condition that causes itchiness and inflammation of the skin along with a red appearance. Also known as atopic dermatitis, eczema causes the skin to become dry and scaly. Eczema is not a contagious condition and cannot be spread by your baby to other children or adults. However, eczema can be quite uncomfortable for some children and should be treated. If eczema becomes serious, speak with your health care provider about appropriate treatments.

What are the Symptoms of Eczema?
The main symptom of eczema is a patchy, dry rash that develops on the forehead, cheeks, and scalp. Made up of dry, scaly skin, the eczema rash can also be accompanied by small pimples or blisters. These blisters can ooze clear liquid and may become infected if scratched. The eczema rash can also develop on the arms, legs, and chest and can be very itchy and uncomfortable.

How Common is Eczema?
Eczema is actually a very common skin complaint, so if your baby is suffering from it, there is probably nothing to worry about. In fact, about 3% to 6% of the adult population suffers from eczema. However, the condition is much more common among children: approximately 10% to 20% of children under 2 develop eczema. Eczema usually disappears on its own, and it is likely that your baby will grow out of the condition by the time that she is 2 years old.

What Causes Eczema?
Unfortunately, though very common, the cause of eczema remains unknown. It is thought that there may be a number of triggers for the skin rash, including:

  • Family History: Many infants and toddlers who develop eczema have relatives that also have eczema, or who have a history of asthma or allergies.
  • Dry Skin: Dry skin is the most common trigger for eczema.
  • Chemicals: Chemicals found in certain soaps, shampoos, and detergents can sometimes cause your toddler’s skin to become irritated.
  • Diet: Certain foods have been known to make eczema worse in some infants. In particular, cow’s milk, eggs, soy products, wheat, and peanuts appear to trigger the rash.
  • Environment: The presence of allergens in your baby’s environment may also cause baby rashes . Common environmental allergens include dust mites, pet dander, and cigarette smoke.

If the Rash is Serious
If your baby’s eczema rash is extensive or is causing your child a lot of discomfort, you may want to speak with your health care provider about a prescription treatment. There are a variety of prescription creams and lotions that can help to ease the rash and prevent it from recurring. These treatments include:

  • Steroid Creams: Steroid creams contain prescription-strength steroids that help to reduce the inflammation and itching associated with eczema. This allows the skin time to heal. Steroid creams should be used sparingly and only as prescribed by a licensed health care practitioner. Prolonged use of steroids can thin baby’s skin, leaving him prone to other infections, so be sure to monitor your baby’s progress daily.
  • Antibiotic Creams: Antibiotic creams can be used to help cure infections that appear as a result of eczema. These creams are available in a variety of strengths from your health care provider.

Preventing Eczema
The best way to prevent baby eczema is to identify and avoid the triggers that make your child’s rash worse. Here are some tips on how to keep your baby’s skin smooth and healthy.

  • Moisturize Be sure to keep baby’s skin as moisturized as possible. Bath him frequently in a lukewarm bath (warm water dries the skin) using fragrance-free soap. Pat baby dry and immediately apply a moisturizing cream, ointment, or lotion. Moisturize twice daily.
  • Change Soaps: Be sure to change your soaps, shampoos, and laundry detergents, as these may be aggravating baby’s skin. Try soaps designed for sensitive skin.
  • Eliminate Environmental Allergens: Visit with an allergist. She can give you tips on eliminating environmental allergens, like dust mites and pollen.
  • Stop Scratching: It is important to keep your baby from scratching his eczema, as this could lead to infection and will only make the eczema worse. Put your child to sleep with soft crib sheets or bed sheets, and cut her nails short to prevent scratching. If you baby is small, putting mittens on her hands will help stop her from scratching.
  • Change Diet: Diet can sometimes trigger infant eczema. Try eliminating foods that commonly cause allergies, such as milk and wheat. If you are breastfeeding, eliminate these foods from your own diet.