Eczema, or Atopic dermatitis, is a rash that can be seen in babies as well as adults. Many times Eczema is considered “the itch that scratches”. Eczema is caused by the skin’s reaction to one or many irritants like soap, lotion, food, or the environment. It is very difficult to determine the exact cause. The skin reaction is not always from direct contact, but from “chemicals” produced in the body. It typically is an inherited condition, often running in families with allergies and asthma. Not all people with Eczema will get asthma or allergies, and not all people with asthma or allergies have Eczema. It is nice to know that most babies who have eczema will grow out of it.
Eczema in the most mild of cases looks like dry skin. When the skin becomes itchy, affected individuals will scratch the skin, and redness develops. In many people, the skin will become red just by being exposed to an irritant or the cold air. In babies, a common place for eczema is the cheeks. Although eczema can occur on any part of the body, common places are behind the ears, knees, or elbows.
The first line of treating eczema is prevention. It is important to wash clothes, bedding, and towels in a “free and clear” detergent without added scents or dyes. In the bath, use a hypoallergenic soap (Cetaphil or Dove Sensitive Skin). Moisturize twice a day, over damp skin (after a bath) with a hypoallergenic moisturizer (Vaseline works well) -the thicker the moisturizer, the better.
If your child develops red, irritated areas, apply 1% hydrocortisone cream (available over the counter) twice a day.
Reasons to call the doctor during regular office hours:
- An eczema rash that doesn’t improve after using the above treatment for 3 days
- An eczema rash that looks infected (oozing, pus, painful, hot, red streaks, blisters, boils) or associated with fever
- An eczema rash that has opened or blistered
- If you’re unsure if your child has eczema
- Any concerns you have!