If you see your baby is scratching themself often, with some signs of redness or streaks on their skin, it means your baby is itchy. Many babies and toddlers have dry skin, so if they are itching all over, you can often blame a lack of necessary oils on your baby’s skin, especially in cool or dry weather when there’s less humidity in the air. If you also spot lumps, bumps, or hives, your toddler could be having an allergic reaction to something. Viruses like rubella can also trigger itchy skin, but they are unlikely if your child has been vaccinated. If the itching is chronic accompanied by a rash that’s dry, red, or scaly, it could be a sign of eczema.
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What is eczema?
Eczema is a non-contagious inflammatory skin condition that causes red, raw, and itchy skin. In this condition, the itch can be so severe that many people with eczema have scabs or even scars from making their skin bleed when they scratch themselves. While the disease can affect people of all ages, it’s most common in kids; in fact, nine million children in the U.S. are dealing with eczema right now.
There are seven types of eczema, the most common being atopic dermatitis, which first strikes in childhood. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it’s the most common skin problem treated by pediatric dermatologists. About 65% of kids with eczema develop symptoms of atopic dermatitis before age one, and about 90% developing symptoms by age five. About 15% of all children have eczema compared with only 2% to 4% of adults.
Symptoms of eczema in infants and babies (1 to 12 months)
Eczema is a real head and scratcher. It’s not a one-symptom-fits-all condition, and your child’s eczema might look a little different from other children’s. The general symptoms include red, itchy skin and rashes, which can ooze or be very dry. Eczema can occur in infants as young as 2 or 3 months old. Often appearing as a rash that causes dry, scaly, itchy skin, it can bubble, ooze, and weep fluid. It commonly appears on the scalp and face, particularly the cheeks, and potentially other body areas.
Babies may rub against things like bedding or carpeting to try to scratch the itch. They also may have trouble sleeping due to a chronic itch. If the skin becomes infected due to constant scratching, it may form a yellow crust or tiny pus-filled bumps.
Causes of childhood eczema:
The exact reason why and how kids get eczema remains unknown. However, doctors believe genetics is the main suspect. Approximately 70% of people with eczema have a family history of atopic diseases (eczema, asthma, hay fever, and food allergies).
Basically, suppose you or your partner has one of these conditions. In that case, there are slim chances that your baby will develop eczema. If both of you have it, the probability increases three to five times. But don’t panic, even if both parents have eczema, it’s still not a guarantee that your child will get it, too.
Research also shows that some people with eczema have a mutation in the gene responsible for creating filaggrin. This protein keeps the top layer of skin strong. This mutation means the skin’s surface is weak, so moisture has easy access out, and bacteria and viruses have easy access in. This is often the reason people with eczema tend to have dehydrated and infection-prone skin. Kids with this gene mutation may have earlier onset eczema, and their condition may be more severe and persistent.
What triggers eczema in kids?
Remember, not every child who has eczema has the same triggers, and it can take some detective work on your part to figure out which ones set them off. But once you do, it makes it much easier to prevent flare-ups. These are some of the culprits to watch out for.
The drier your child’s skin, the more it will itch and make existing eczema worse, particularly your kid’s prone to scratching. You can tell if the skin is dry by touching it, if it looks scaly or ashy, or has areas of cracked or bleeding skin.
It’s a fact: babies drool. That saliva can cause irritation, redness, or swelling on the areas it touches, like your baby’s cheeks, chin, or neck.
Although kids don’t sweat as much as adults, it’s still worth noting that people with eczema tend to have higher glucose levels in their sweat, which promotes itching.
Certain fabric materials can irritate your child’s skin and worsen eczema symptoms like wool or polyester. Pay attention to whether your tot’s eczema flares occur after wearing specific items or if the itchiness occurs in places where seams or tags touch the skin.
Substances that commonly trigger an allergic reaction like pollen, dust mites, pet dander, and mold can also spark or worsen eczema symptoms.
Everyday products like soap, body wash, shampoo, laundry detergents, fabric softeners, baby powder, or wipes can irritate your child’s skin and cause burning, itching, or redness. Other irritants include metals, especially nickel – which is commonly used for earring backings – fragrances, cigarette smoke, and formaldehyde, which are found in disinfectants, glues, and adhesives.
When should you take your baby to the doctor with her itchy skin?
If the symptoms seem significantly prolonged or severe, or you also see dark-purple rashes, then call your doctor urgently.
Your doctor may prescribe moisturizers, anti-inflammatory medicines, and hydrocortisone creams or ointments if your baby has eczema. Antibiotics may also be prescribed if there is a bacterial infection or when there are blisters with pus.