As many as 10 percent of infants suffer from eczema, says the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, and many babies outgrow this itchy skin rash by toddlerhood. That fact should reassure you, but doesn't change the fact that your little one's uncomfortable today. Though extreme cases may require medication, many of your infant's eczema flare-ups can be eased or ended with some diligence on your part.
Dryness is the enemy when your baby has eczema. Because harsh chemicals and hot water will irritate this condition, a careful bath regimen is necessary. Use lukewarm water, keep his baths to about 5 minutes in length and use unscented soap, says the AAFA. After his bath, wrap your infant lightly in a soft towel. He shouldn't be dripping wet, but his skin should still be slightly damp. Apply a thick layer of moisturizer within 3 minutes of removing him from the bath, advises the National Eczema Association. Use a fragrance- and dye-free product labeled as ointment or cream rather than lotion, as the latter has the least oil content.
Change Your Menu
While food allergies may play a part in your baby's skin troubles, the NEA says that if your baby's eczema is improved through proper skin care, food allergies are probably not to blame. But your baby's diet can improve his eczema, writes Dr. William Sears for "Parenting." Increase the amount of healthy fat your infant takes in. Dr. Sears suggests a breastfeeding mom take fish oil supplements and eat at least 8 ounces of wild salmon weekly. If you use formula, pick a type that's enriched with the fatty acids DHA and ARA. Feed an older baby salmon and avocado.
Allergy-Proof His Wardrobe
Any irritants can spark an eczema flare-up or make the rash worse. So before you dress your baby in his cutest new duds, wash them in liquid detergent -- it washes out better than powder, says AskDrSears.com. Running your baby's laundry through a second rinse cycle may also help remove any traces of detergent. His towels, washcloths and bedding should undergo the same routine. Look for cotton garments, advises the site, and avoid wool and synthetics. And inspect the inside of every piece of clothing for seams and tags that could irritate his skin.
Your baby spends much of his life asleep, so put that time to work. Dry air worsens eczema while humidity improves it. AskDrSears.com suggests using a humidity gauge and keeping your home between 25 and 40 percent humidity. Turn on your home's air conditioning, or set up a cool-mist humidifier in the baby's room in a spot where it and its cord are out of his reach. Keep his nails trimmed and fit socks and gloves on your little one before he goes to sleep to prevent him from scratching himself.