According to WebMD, 10-15% of babies develop infantile eczema, which is the first step in a progression of allergic reactions known as the atopic march, which includes asthma, allergic rhinitis (hay fever), and food allergies. This is why it is important for all new parents to be able to recognize infantile eczema so they can take steps to protect the delicate skin of their babies. Here's what you need to know.
What infantile eczema looks like
Infantile eczema is a red rash that can affect any part of the body but is more predominant on the cheeks. It is an allergic reaction that can be worsened by dryness. When the rash is dry, it gets itchy, which causes the baby to rub and scratch at their skin. This can cause infection to set in, and the irritated skin will then ooze. If your baby's skin oozes, the skin may look like it has a layer of yellow crust on it.
What the atopic march is
The progression from infantile eczema to other allergic reactions later in life is called the atopic march. Doctors who conducted the research found that a substance called thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP) is released into the body when there is damage to the skin, such as what happens when a baby scratches and rubs infantile eczema.
TSLP then triggers an immune response that is excessive, which may result in the development of asthma and other systemic allergic reactions throughout the body, including allergic rhinitis and life-threatening food allergies. Research shows that 50-70% of children who had this condition as babies develop asthma when they are older.
How to protect the skin
Due to the seriousness of asthma and life-threatening food allergies, it is extremely important that parents prevent their babies from producing TSLP. Since the substance is produced when the skin is damaged, parents must do everything they can to protect the skin. Avoid using harsh soaps and detergents that can cause the delicate skin to flare up with infantile eczema.
Also, moisturizers should be applied to baby's skin at least once a day to keep the skin from getting dry. That way, the baby may not get itchy and try to rub and scratch the itch. However, stay away from moisturizers that contain ingredients that may cause stinging, such as alcohol.
If the skin does flare up, cover your baby's hands with infant mittens to keep them from digging their fingernails into their itchy skin. Change their bedding daily to remove contaminants that can cause the baby's skin to become infected.
Medical treatment options
While there is no cure for infantile eczema, it can be treated with steroid creams. Ask your pediatrician to refer you to a dermatologist who can help clear up your baby's problematic skin. The dermatologist will likely ask you what types of products you are using on your baby and what the environment is like in your home, such as whether or not anyone smokes inside your house.
You may be asked to start an elimination process in which you get rid of all products and then begin reintroducing them one at a time. The reason for doing this is so you and your dermatologist can determine which products your baby is sensitive to. To help in doing this, keep a log of everything your baby comes in contact with and what he or she eats.
Sometimes, babies develop infantile eczema without any identifiable cause. The most important thing to do is to protect the skin from infection and damage during a flare-up of infantile eczema. That way, your baby's risk of developing asthma and other allergic reactions may be reduced in the future. For more information about your child's skin care, contact a local dermatologist, or visit http://www.dermsurgctr.com.