Kids and Eczema: Everything You Need to Know
Camber Hess is a Family Nurse Practitioner working at a family practice in Utah seeing all ages and treating a wide variety of conditions. She has 2 kids of her own, ages 3 and 4 months.
Seeing a rash on your little ones can be stressful for any parent, especially when it makes them miserable or interferes with sleep (kids’ sleep OR yours!). Eczema (atopic dermatitis) is particularly common in babies, affecting up to 20% of them, and it can often persist into childhood and even adulthood. Eczema is not curable, but don’t panic, it IS treatable, and it often disappears or at least improves with age. Babies are the most likely age group to have eczema.
How do I know if it’s Eczema?
Eczema is a rough, scaly rash that can appear anywhere on the body, but the most likely places in babies are on the cheeks and chin, and on the trunk, scalp, and outer arms and legs. In older kids it often appears in the creases of elbows, knees, and wrists. It can be reddened, light pink, or flesh-colored and occurs in patches. It is VERY itchy and can interfere with sleep and lead to sad, fussy babies.
What do I DO about it?
The first treatment for eczema is always to moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. This involves applying a good quality lotion at least twice a day, and avoiding anything that would dry the skin out.
thick and free
The second recommendation is to avoid irritants. Avoid harsh soaps or soaps that have added dyes or perfumes—again, baby soap can be a culprit! Instead, look for mild, moisturizing soaps like Cerave ultra hydrating cleanser, Exederm baby bath, Neutrogena ultra gentle, and Aveeno baby cleansing therapy. More information on soaps and eczema can be found at https://nationaleczema.org/eczema-products/cleansers/
Avoid contact with household cleaners, hand soaps, and disinfectants.
Other triggers for eczema include environmental or food allergies and stress. Common allergens include pet dander (think dogs and cats), house mites, pollen, peanuts, tree nuts, milk, shellfish, eggs, wheat, and soy. Talk to your doctor if you suspect allergies.
Itching and Redness
Eczema can be as miserable as it looks! Sometimes we call it the “itch that rashes”. Moisturizing and avoiding irritants can help minimize itching and redness, but sometimes these poor kids need more.
–Hydrocortisone 1% is available over the counter (sometimes labeled ‘anti-itch cream’) and can safely be applied to problem areas for up to 2 weeks. Since this is a milder steroid cream, it can be applied sparingly to the face, but avoid the skin near the eyes and use it for short-term use only.
–Allergy medication can also be given for itching. You can start with children’s Zyrtec or Claritin (Zyrtec can be given to kids under 2; Claritin generally cannot) for something non-drowsy. Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is stronger but can cause significant drowsiness for some kids. It can also be given to babies—check with your doctor for dosing.
When to see your doctor
Any rash accompanied by fever or respiratory symptoms should be checked out by your doctor, as well as any rash that appears infected (oozing, pussy, bright red, or with yellow crusts).
If the eczema does not respond well to the at-home treatments listed, going to your doctor is a great next step. Not only can the doctor verify that the rash is actually eczema (as opposed to something else), but they can also suggest some other treatments, including prescription-strength steroid creams and other types of medication for eczema.
There are, of course, good resources online to learn more about eczema, in addition to talking it over with your doctor or pediatrician. These are two of my favorites:
The National Eczema Association: https://nationaleczema.org/
The Mayo Clinic guide to eczema: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ (search for ‘eczema’ or ‘atopic dermatitis’)
I'm a registered dietitian, mom of 4, avid lover of food and strong promoter of healthy habits. Here you will find lots of delicious recipes full of fruits and veggies, tips for getting your kids to eat better and become intuitive eaters and lots of resources for feeding your family.Learn More about Natalie
My daughter had the worse eczema I’ve ever seen! All my children have/had eczema and when she was born I’ve never seen anything like it. It was so bad that we finally went to an allergist to get their opinion. I already was off dairy and gluten but they still had me do a food log. They also suggested the complete opposite of what I’ve been told about bathtime. He had me bath my baby twice a day for 15 minutes. I then had to immediately lather her in a moisturizer cream of my choice to seal in the moisture from the bath. Within a week her skin started clearing up. She went from being miserable with itchy red skin that also got infected because it was so bad to being eczema free and not allergic to anything!
That is amazing! So glad you found relief.
My babe also has eczema and the twice daily bathing/moisturizing regime was what worked best for us as well! I think the national eczema people recommend that as well! Totally life changing as restricting her baths actually seemed to make things worse.
I was also told by my skin Dr to bath my baby every day for at least 10 min and apply moisturizer immediately. I use neosporin excema cream and it is amazing. Also really moniter his foods, as this also causes his excema to get worse.
My doctor also recommended 1 bath per day and apply moisturizer immediately after drying the baby with a towel. It worked!!! Please moms, don’t listen to the outdated 2 baths per week. That is actually terrible advice, and I know because I followed it with my older children and it was so much worse, including the fact that it would get infected. I look back now, and think ugh!, rounds of antibiotics that were totally preventable if I only knew to bath every day! It really does keep the eczema at bay. I have 4 kids who all had eczema. Please, please, bath child every day, and you will see a huge difference.
Being in Utah you should be familiar with Modere. I am in Australia and I am using all Modere products to treat eczema on my kids and it is now gone. Probiotics is wonderful for this condition. My friend has got her 4 month old on probiotics and has seen an improvement in only 4 days. She has changed to bubble bath and also her lotions and washing powder.
both my boys have eczema pretty bad and we’ve spent so much money on creams and hydrocortisone ointments. Just last month we started them on a doc approved probiotic from plexus and there skin is already so much better! The probiotic has worked wonders and the lotion from their line along with cerve moisturizer !
Who knew a probiotic was the key to get my babies some relief! So excited ! 🙂
My 3.5 year old son has had ezcema since the first winter he was born. I tried lots of things and wanted to share what worked for us. I do not like the idea of constantly putting hydrocortisone on the skin because it is a steroid and can thin the skin out. My pediatrician told me diet change would not make a difference but after taking my son off gluten I noticed a huge difference. I also started him on a probiotic. There is a lot of thought that ezcema is now related to gut health. Most topical medications are a temporary fix but healing ezcema needs to start on the inside. I did reintroduce gluten but definitely limit it. I think diet change is worth trying. I also swear by Shea butter. It works miracles!
I have to say, I’m very surprised to see hydrocortisone cream recommended on a “healthy” blog. It is known to cause lots of problems, esp. with regular use. It is something that even our conventional doc has said to use very sparingly. Also, “free and clear” detergents are not as “free and clear” as you think – just look up info on good detergents for cloth diapers and you will see all the additives still in those free and clear detergents. Naturally derived detergents are going to be the best, or soap nuts.
I second the comment that said to use shea butter – a clean, free-of-junk and thick natural butter. We also have in our rotation: jojoba or almond oil, a natural non-petroleum jelly, and coconut oil. My son experiences eczema on the bottom of his feet, which is the worst place because it can never be rested enough to heal, and often at night I layer things like coconut oil or shea butter under almond oil with the non-petroleum jelly on top, then wrapped with saran wrap to keep it all on the actual foot (vs. sock or sheets) and keep the moisture in. The biggest difference is made when we consistently lotion the eczema morning and night with natural body butters (like those found at Bubble and Bee, and Yes to Carrots has worked okay for us as well but is thinner).
I once read a news story of a child who suffocated in his bed due to Saran Wrap that was applied to the back of his head along with some homemade natural remedy cream to get rid of lice. The parents wrapped his scalp with the Saran Wrap but it got shifted over his face sometime during the night and he died. Very tragic. Please be careful, the feet are probably fine to wrap, but don’t ever do his scalp.
my daughter had suffered from eczema since she was a baby
after millions of different therapy sessions, all sorts of creams, lotions , baths and anything and everything available
we cut all dairy products and gluten and in 3 1/2 months it was gone!
once in a while she might scape diet by “mistake” like eating a cupcake at a kids bday party when i wasnt there and voila another 4 weeks of eczema
i also cut all artificial colors and flavors of her diet, and all animal products from household too now
so its been amazing everyone feels awesome and life is great ! diet is everything !!
Beauty counter baby line has a balm that is great on eczema ! It’s safe and you k i.e. what you are putting on your baby because they list all of the ingredients. They rate a 0-2 on the ewg healthy living website .
Both my son and I have battled extreme eczema. Some of this info is outdated. Most eczema is curable, the breakthroughs have come through gut health. The rash you see is just the effect, it’s not the cause. Also, any steroid should only be taken for a few days. If the symptoms persist stop using it. Long time use can lead to topical steroid withdrawal (TSW) which is awful too. The recommendation for switching out potential allergen products is good advice. Keep fighting, there is hope
My son had very bad eczema on his face when he was an infant. Until a friend mentioned it, I had no idea it could be related to food allergies. At 4 months, he was tested by an allergist….sure enough, he was allergic to soy, egg, dairy, peanuts and tree nuts. Once I cut that out of my diet (he was breastfed only), his eczema was gone. He has outgrown many of those allergies now and never had an eczema issue again.
My son had terrible eczema as a baby and toddler, we did an elimination diet of dairy and gluten for him after a year of steroid creams then finally did a blood test with our naturopath and we found he was allergic to pineapple!! Who know!
My little one had eczema that she would scratch until it bled. We switched to cocoa butter shampoo and body wash, mixed prebiotics for kids, bathed everyday, and once a week did a bleach bath, all on doctors orders. It has worked wonders! Although the bleach bath through me for a loop.
My youngest son had severe eczema and allergies as a very young baby. As well as cutting out wheat, soy, dairy, eggs and peanuts from my diet (breast fed baby), he also had environmental allergies. The only thing to completely kill the germs on his skin causing the redness and itching was bathing in diluted bleach, recommended by our allergy specialist. And when I mean diluted, it’s a minute amount in a standard size bathtub. Sounds extreme, but it was the only thing that worked, along with moisturise, moisturise, moisturise!
Eczema, though in the skin, is an external response to an internal issue. Probiotics for gut health. Avoid soy! Peanuts & dairy. Tea tree oil mixed with pure olive oil or unrefined coconut oil is soothing, prevents infection and helps heal the skin.
Please don’t use hydrocortisone on your baby! Definitely don’t give them steroid cream! Please don’t give them allergy meds!! That won’t solve the problem, only create new ones.
If your child suffers, please seek out natural methods. My son, now 15, suffered since he was 5 weeks old after a bronchial infection. 10 years of steriod creams, laundry detergent Merry go rounds, creams, allergy meds …. All sorts of horrible. His skin showed signs of healing after seeking the help of a naturalist. Probiotics, zinc and avoiding certain foods healed him completely!
Get rid of Eczema by using these Natural Skin Care Ingredients.
I have had serious eczema on my hands since babyhood and have suffered from it all my life (now 56 years old). It is painful, and can make me feel cranky and I don’t always clue in that the cause is that burning (I mean burning to the bone) pain. I have tried numerous products, prescriptions, acupuncture, traditional native, asian treatments, name it. However, I want to say that Neutrogena ultra gentle, and Aveeno baby cleansing therapy only aggravated the situation. What has brought the most relief is a combination of eucerin, glycerin and water mixed by the pharmacist. OH, what a relief. When my skin gets too dry (elsewhere on my body), I spread it all over and put on wet warm pyjamas for about 15 minutes. It’s non-medicated and really soothes. So maybe you can try this with your children. It took me so many years to find this out. When I see children with severe eczema, I just want to cry. Eucerin, glycerin and water doesn’t cure, nor heal eczema, but it relieves the itch and burning feeling. No irritating synthetic chemicals nor fragrance.
Very useful info, thanks
Natalie Monson Thanks for post. Its good post.
My daughter had severe eczema starting at 1 and getting progressively worse. She would wake up crying from bleeding. We did all the different bathing techniques, bleach baths, hydrocortisone cream, and it would just got worse and worse. We finally took her to a naturopath who tested her for her specific food and environmental aggravators. After 6 months of being off everything (soy, cow dairy, corn, gluten, pumpkin, apples, arrowroot, and more), she’s almost completely healed. She is now 6 and it is finally cleared.
Eczema is a common skin condition that may have many causes and no known cure. It can be particularly troublesome for babies. But, is it possible that breastmilk might help?
That’s a great article Natalie. Atopic dermatitis usually develops in early childhood and is more common in people who have a family history of the condition.
I’m not that much of a internet reader to be honest but your blogs really nice, keep it up! I’ll go ahead and bookmark your website to come back down the road. We are also offering similar products.
My 5 month old has been dealing with eczema for months. His doctor just kept encouraging us to put Vaseline on it, but I finally got fed up because I felt like it wasn’t doing anything. I saw the great reviews of foderma eczema serum over internet and had to try it. I’m not even kidding when I say that it pretty much is cleared up after only using it twice!! Amazing stuff!