Baby’s skin is naturally sensitive, so it’s only normal to worry when your little one develops eczema. But don’t panic: eczema is actually the most common chronic skin condition in children, affecting 10-20 percent of kids.
Eczema—also known as atopic dermatitis (AD)—usually occurs in the first year of life and almost always within the first five years. Most kids with eczema have at least one family member with eczema. Doctors sometimes refer to eczema as the first part of the “atopic march.” The atopic march involves the diagnosis of eczema, food allergy, allergic rhinitis, and asthma, typically in that order.
For babies, eczema usually starts on the face or arms and legs, and can occur almost anywhere. With older kids, the rash is typically in the elbow and knee folds, the creases of the body. The skin first becomes itchy and then develops a red, scaly, rash. Eczema can cause significant discomfort because of the itchiness, and kids sometimes scratch so hard that they bleed.
How to treat eczema
Eczema isn’t contagious. Mild cases can be treated with non-prescription emollients and hypoallergenic creams. In some cases, doctors might also prescribe a topical steroid and an oral antihistamine. Most parents report that their child’s eczema gets worse with certain triggers such as cold weather, harsh soap, or chlorinated swimming pools. Food and environmental allergies can also play a role in some children. Ways to prevent flare-ups include:
- Bathing your child in warm—not hot—water. You also want to make bath time as short as possible because being in the water too long can dry out your little one’s skin. When your child gets out of the tub, gently pat skin dry.
- Applying any topical creams and lotions generously to damp skin, focusing on areas that are most affected by the eczema.
- Keeping your child’s fingernails short so if they do scratch, there is minimal damage to the skin.
- Washing clothes in detergent made for sensitive skin.
- Using only fragrance-free products on your child’s skin.
Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, February 2019
- Eczema is the most common chronic skin condition in children, with 10-20 percent of kids affected by it.
- It usually presents itself in the first year of life and almost always in the first five years. It is not contagious.
- Eczema is considered to be part of the “atopic march,” which involves the diagnosis of eczema, food allergy, allergic rhinitis, and asthma.
- Eczema can be triggered or aggravated by allergies to anything from food and soaps to pollen and pet dander.
My older children have just been diagnosed with eczema. It’s strange to me how their eczema rashes look so different, but they’ve been diagnosed with the same thing!
Eczema seems to be more common these days like food allergies. I don’t know what has changed to make it a more common childhood issue. We use Aquaphor for a few days and that seems to help immensely. I know every child is different though. Sometimes my boys would get heat rashes, but that seems different from eczema.
Indeed, heat rashes are different from eczema. Eczema can be very difficult to treat but helping the skin maintain it’s moisture barrier is key – which is why the Aquaphor can be very helpful!
Loved this article, passed it on to my sister in law. Our niece has eczema, and she has been trying so many different products to help heal it.
A recent study suggested that the product Atopiclair – available on amazon.com is very effective in the treatment of mild eczema. I am going to try it on my own daughter.
love this article so many babies out there that have eczema and it’s terrible. My grandson has it and i feel so bad fort he little guy seeing him trying to scratch his itch
Thanks for all the great info..My daughter had this as a baby and was covered with crusty patches all over..I felt so bad! Thank God she outgrew it and has not had any problems for years.
I totally think that all fragrance free products help a lot. I switched everything from body lotion/wash, to laundry detergent, and even my cleaning products. I use all Seventh Generation (free and clear) hand wash, laundry detergent, and cleaning products. Original Sprout makes great all natural shampoo and conditioner. They also have awesome body washes and lotions. I’ve also heard that organic coconut oil is great for dry skin. Anything is worth a shot…I hate to see kids suffering from eczema. 🙁
I’ve heard that about coconut oil, too. One of my friends swears it works!
My 6-year-old son suffers of eczema. For some reason it seems to get worse when the weather changes, but maybe it’s just him. We do use prescribed hydrocortisone cream that we apply in his skin every single day. I have to wash his clothes with a special detergent free of dyes and perfumes as well. And times like yesterday when we were at the swimming pool for hours we have to put even more lotion after his shower because his skin gets bad. The moment he jumps out of the shower he is scratching everywhere so I have to often remind him that the more he scratches the worse it gets. The bad areas for him are behind his ears, his neck, his arms and the back of his legs. It is very hard, but since it does not seem to go away we make sure to keep it under control.
Carolina D. does eczema run in your family? Both my boys (4 and 1) have it. And honestly neither me nor my husband have anyone in our family with it. Our 4 year old has it worse and also has pityriasis alba. I hate that they have these skin issues.
Great article. My youngest nephew developed eczema when he was only a few months old. I felt so bad for the little guy because he just looked so uncomfortable. Thankfully, it has cleared up.
Great that they were able to control his eczema. It’s tough seeing little ones so uncomfortable.