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Seven tips for treating infant eczema

Jason Boyd, MD

If your baby is suffering from red, dry, itchy skin, you’re not alone. Up to 18 percent of children under two develop eczema, and 85 percent of these cases occur in the first year of life. It’s a common—and uncomfortable—ailment.

While there is no cure for the condition, there’s a lot parents can do to keep babies from scratching and feeling miserable.

Here are my top tips for parents:

  1. Soak and slather frequently. Bathing daily, or every other day, in lukewarm (not hot) water reintroduces moisture to the skin. Applying a heavy cream afterwards locks it in. Use plain water or a gentle, non-soap cleanser during bath time. Pat the skin to remove excess water and apply a heavy cream within two minutes. Limit baths to five to ten minutes.
  2. Use fragrance-free products. Look for laundry detergents, soaps, non-soap cleansers, and creams or ointments that are free from irritating perfumes and chemicals.
  3. Opt for natural fibers. Pure cotton clothing can help wick away sweat and allow the skin to breathe. However, avoid wool, which can be irritating to sensitive skin.
  4. Moisturize regularly. Moisturize your baby several times a day. Dermatologists here often recommend VaniCream, which comes with a handy pump that keeps you from introducing bacteria into the jar. CeraVe, Cetaphil, and Aveeno Eczema creams are also good products. The National Eczema Association also offers a comprehensive list of eczema-friendly products. The original Vaseline (petroleum jelly) is also a great moisturizer and may prevent eczema if applied daily in the first six months of life.
  5. Cover hands to prevent scratching. Mittens and baby socks can keep little ones from scratching themselves at night. It’s also important to keep their nails short.
  6. Keep allergens and irritants out. Putting Vaseline on your baby’s cheeks and around the mouth can keep drool and food out of broken skin, preventing inflammation.
  7. Humidify the room. In the winter, it may help to use a humidifier in the baby’s room.

If your baby isn’t getting any relief from these measures, if the skin is getting more irritated or infected, or if your baby is having trouble sleeping, consult your pediatrician. It might be time to see a dermatologist or consider a prescription to bring the flare under control.

It can take time and dedication to come up with the best way to care for your baby’s eczema. By working with your doctor to discover what works for your little one’s unique needs, you can help your baby feel better now and protect their skin for years to come.

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Dr. Jason Boyd is a board-certified dermatologist caring for patients of all ages at Vancouver Clinic.