While the winter weather may bring a chilling breeze and beautiful snow-topped trees, it also brings out the worst in skin conditions. The frigid, dry air can quickly take a toll on your skin—and unfortunately, our little ones aren’t exempt.
If your baby is dealing with eczema, it may feel like a never-ending battle to soothe their symptoms. But there are steps you can take to relieve their uncomfortable skin—and prevent an eczema flare in the future.
What is Eczema in Babies?
“Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition that causes itchy skin, rashes, dry skin, scaly patches, and skin infections,” says Dr. Elizabeth Mullans, M.D., Board-Certified Dermatologist, and founder of Uptown Dermatology in Houston, Texas.
While there are seven different types of eczema, atopic dermatitis is the most common among children—affecting up to 25%, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Not only does this type of eczema affect each child differently, but it’s also common for the location and appearance of eczema to change as a child gets older.
For infants and young children, the dry patches are typically found on the face, as well as the parts of the body that get more friction—such as the baby’s elbows and knees (once they start crawling). As they get older, eczema often moves to the hands, feet, arms, and the back of the knees.
What causes eczema in babies?
Although the exact cause is unknown, it’s believed to be a combination of genetics and environmental triggers. Some of these triggers include:
- Dry skin
- Skin irritants, such as rough fabrics, certain detergents, harsh soaps and fragrances
- Increased moisture on the skin due to heat and/or sweating
- Allergens, such as pollen, dust, pet dander
Tips for soothing your baby’s eczema this winter
While there’s no cure for eczema, don’t say goodbye to your dreams of snuggling that baby-soft skin quite yet.
“Eczema among babies is common and very treatable,” explains Dr. Mullans. There are several approaches to treating eczema, from topical moisturizers and ointments to hypoallergenic baby products and clothes.
Remove bath time irritants
As cute as it may be to see your baby surrounded by bubbles in the bath, these products often contain harsh ingredients that can dry and irritate the skin. Stick with a mild cleanser and lukewarm water.
You should also limit time in the tub to no more than 10 to 15 minutes, followed by gently patting your baby’s skin with a soft towel.
Moisturize! Moisturize! Moisturize!
It’s important to moisturize immediately after the bath to seal in hydration and avoid drying out your baby’s delicate skin. Use a fragrance-free, hypoallergenic moisturizer over their entire body. Reapply at least 2 to 3 times throughout the day to add a little extra boost to their dry skin.
Typically, a thicker cream or ointment is more effective for soothing your baby’s eczema—opposed to thinner lotions or oils. Be aware that just because a product claims to be natural or organic doesn’t mean it’s hypoallergenic. Natural products can still cause skin reactions. Start by testing any new moisturizer on a small part of your baby’s body to ensure they respond well.
Keep your baby cool + comfortable
Heat and sweat can irritate the skin, which causes eczema to flare. To keep your baby cool while reducing skin irritation from rough fabrics—dress them in loose, natural-fiber clothing. Cotton, silk, and bamboo are great options.
Also, consider swapping your baby’s bedding out for natural-fiber fabrics to avoid further irritation.
Protect your baby against scratching
Unfortunately, itching is a common side effect of eczema. To reduce the irritation caused by scratching, keep your baby’s nails short. Depending on their age, you may also want to consider using mittens to help prevent them from scratching.
Even if your baby isn’t actively dealing with an eczema flare-up, it’s important to stay proactive. This is especially true during cooler months when dry air can quickly irritate the skin.
Permanently switching household products to gentle cleaners and using milder laundry detergents can help avoid flare-ups in the future. If you find a product that works, stick with it.
When to Consult with a Healthcare Professional
If your little one still isn’t getting relief after making these changes, it’s worth talking to your doctor. They may prescribe a topical steroid cream or another ointment to help reduce inflammation and other symptoms, such as itching.
“Take your baby for treatment if the symptoms of eczema become persistent after trying several remedies, or when the baby’s skin develops a purple rash, is becoming crusty (a yellow crust may be a sign of a bacterial infection), or has blisters,” concludes Dr. Boyer.
Your little one’s delicate skin deserves special care during the winter months—especially when battling unwanted conditions like eczema. With a few simple changes, you can help soothe and protect their skin from harsh weather conditions.