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Typically, symptoms of baby eczema appear within the first few months of life, and almost always appear before a child turns 5. Approximately one out of every 10 children develops eczema.

The term eczema refers to a number of different skin conditions in which the skin is red and irritated and occasionally results in small, fluid-filled bumps that become moist and oozing. It can occur on just about any part of the body – in babies, typically on the forehead, cheeks, forearms, legs, scalp, and neck.

While baby eczema looks drastic and painful in the midst of a flare up, in most cases it will disappear as the child ages.

What causes baby eczema?

There are many factors. Baby eczema is often inherited. Your baby is more likely to have it if you or some other close family member has had eczema, asthma or allergies.

The most common cause is atopic dermatitis, sometimes called infantile eczema (or baby eczema) although it occurs not only in infants, but also in older children. The word "atopic" describes conditions that occur when someone is overly sensitive to allergens in their environment such as pollens, molds, dust, and certain foods. "Dermatitis" means that the skin is inflamed, or red and sore.

If the baby has had antibiotics, there is a chance the eczema could be a reaction to a resulting yeast infection, because antibiotics destroy the “good” bacteria and infection-fighting cells needed in our bodies, thus weakening the immune system.

Baby eczema is not necessarily an allergic reaction to something, but it can be provoked by allergens in the baby's environment or diet (like cow’s milk), or the mother’s diet if breastfeeding. Baby eczema can also be aggravated by heat or changes in temperature, dry skin, and skin irritants like wool, some soap chemicals, lotions or detergents.

How can parents prevent or treat outbreaks of baby eczema?

It is best to be proactive against baby eczema – this means avoiding as many triggers as possible and strengthening their immune system:

  • Refrain from overly frequent bathing and using bubble baths.
  • Switch to milder soaps for bathing the child and washing their clothing.
  • Keep bedrooms and play areas free of dust mites (a common trigger).
  • Dress your child in breathable cotton clothing.
  • Avoid sugary substances.

As for treatment, mild to moderate cases of baby eczema can be helped by regular moisturizing. Keep your child’s skin moist after bathing by applying moisturizer.

If the child is scratching, try to limit the use of hydrocortisone creams. Hydrocortisone is a steroid. Over time, it aggravates and thins the skin and can cause irritability and chemical imbalance. Creams made from nature’s sources like “Tea tree oil” are available at natural health outlets and bring much relief from the itch.

Is baby eczema contagious?

Eczema is not contagious, so there's no need to keep a baby or child who has it away from siblings, other children, or anyone else.

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