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Stop Infant Eczema with These 5 Simple Methods

Eczema is a skin condition seen in greater numbers each year in babies. Rather than resorting to conventional treatments that have unknown side effects, try these 5 natural ways to prevent infant eczema flare-ups.
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Eczema symptoms in infants are increasing at an alarming rate. Babies are supposed to have the purest form of skin with smooth, soft skin that is fun to touch and glowing with health. However, according to Web MD, up to 15 percent of infants today have some form of eczema.

According to Dr. Anthony Mancini, the head of dermatology at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, the numbers are higher. He says that one in 5-6 babies suffer from some form of eczema. When he started his practice in the late 1980s, only one out of 20 babies was affected by eczema.

So, what is causing this increase in infant skin conditions? A variety of factors may be at play. Babies commonly see several skin conditions as they traverse the first year of life. Flaky scalp, baby acne, jaundice, and milia can all affect tiny infants. Usually, these conditions fade within a few months as the baby grows and continues to develop. However, infant eczema seems to stick around longer in more babies born today than in the past. For many babies, curing their eczema is a little more difficult than simply slathering on lotion.

Possible Causes of Infant Eczema (atopic dermatitis)

The President of the Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology; Dr. Hugh Sampson, attributes the rise in the condition to the modern lifestyle. He cites preservatives, pollution, and pollens as possible sources for the irritants. Harsh soaps, laundry detergents, genetics, and environmental chemicals may also be contributing factors. British epidemiologist David P. Strachan created the hygiene hypothesis in 1989 to explain the rise in conditions such as eczema.

The hygiene hypothesis theorizes that modern infants are not exposed to enough bacteria in their formative years. Because of this, babies can develop hyper-immune systems that resist all forms of invaders, leading to a higher rise in allergies and skin conditions like eczema. Dr. Strachan used differences in the health of children from large families from the health of families with one or two children. Children from larger families often seemed to be healthier, which he presumed was from the added exposure to bacteria and infectious agents. The theory states that when the immune system is not challenged with real threats, it will overreact to allergens.

Other studies support similar data. A 2003 study conducted by The Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University in Denmark gave probiotic supplements to children aged between 1 and 13 years for six weeks. After the trial period, 56 percent of the children taking probiotics reported a reduction in eczema symptoms. Only 15 percent of the placebo group reported improved symptoms.

A 2005 study from the University of Western Australia hosted a similar study on younger babies. In this study, 53 babies aged 6 to 18 months suffering from eczema symptoms were given a probiotic supplement for 8 weeks and were tested at 8 and 16 weeks. At week 16, 92 percent of the babies showed a reduction in symptoms. This data indicates that the hygiene hypothesis could have merit. Scientists are just beginning to understand the role of bacteria in a child’s health.

In fact, a 2004 study from Japan published in The Journal of Physiology indicated that by changing the bacteria levels in mice, their behavior and immune systems functioned differently, but only up to 9 weeks (which is right after sexual maturity). It is possible that a similar function can happen in children.

A 2011 study conducted by the University of Florida looked at the importance of exposure to bacteria in early life. According to the study, how a child is born influences their exposure to certain beneficial bacteria that help kickstart the immune system. The researchers concluded, “The link between mode of delivery and subsequent childhood pathology is an important one.”This data supports the hygiene hypothesis and opens up a whole new world for bacteria-based cures for a variety of conditions ranging from eczema to other common childhood diseases.

Treating Infant Eczema

If your baby has eczema, you don’t have to worry. Just because a baby has eczema doesn’t mean he or she will suffer from eczema forever. Half of children with eczema as a baby outgrow the condition by the time they reach adulthood. However, whether your baby outgrows the condition or not, treating eczema naturally includes the same steps whether the patient is a baby or an adult.

Many parents dislike the idea of giving traditional eczema treatment methods to their babies. Traditional methods can include topical steroids, antihistamines, or nonsteroidal ointments. Many of these methods include side effects that parents don’t want their child to face, such as weight gain or breathing difficulties. Because of the recent increase in eczema cases, there are hundreds of topical products on the market, and some may even make the condition worse.

Infant Eczema Triggers

Web MD cites several possible triggers for the eczema symptoms. These triggers are not the cause of the condition, but simply what may spark an outbreak. Possible triggers include:

Triggers for Infant Eczema

Dry Skin: Most people show signs of skin distress when there is not enough moisture on the skin. If a baby is hampered from forming the natural moisture barriers on his or her skin, dry skin could lead to flaky patches, cracks in the skin, and rough patches. Common irritants are low humidity, harsh soaps, and exposure to cold, dry air.

Stress: You may not think that a baby can feel stress, but they can. Stress such as poor sleep habits, irregular meals, a sudden change in environment, and increase immune function could lead to a flushed, itchy rash.

Outside Irritants: Scratchy clothing and harsh soaps could lead to a rise in eczema symptoms in a baby.

Heat: Babies are susceptible to heat rashes because of their folds of skin and constant exposure to moisture from drool, sweat, and wet diapers.


Allergies: Some medical professionals think allergies may trigger eczema symptoms. Common allergens are eggs, peanuts, acidic fruits, and cow’s milk. Pet dander may also be a trigger in some babies



Topical Treatments

Some topical treatments may help prevent or stop eczema symptoms.

Moisturizing Cream: Dermatologist Dr. Eric Simpson studied the effects of Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream for Dry Sensitive Skin on infant eczema in 2008. The goal was to see if preventative measures could prevent the start of eczema symptoms in babies who have a family history of the condition. Out of 20 babies, only 2 showed signs of developing the condition after this treatment method. Other natural-based moisturizing creams, such as coconut oil or lanolin may also work to help clear eczema flare-ups.

Dye, fragrance, and paraben-free soaps: It is important to only use the most mild forms of soap on a baby with skin problems. Most products marketed at babies are not healthy at all, and can make eczema symptoms worse. Only choose a soap with the cleanest, purest ingredients possible to reduce the risk of exposing your baby to unwanted chemical triggers. Mild laundry soap, such as the kind safe for use with cloth diapers, will also help ensure your clothing is free of irritants.

Oatmeal Bath: Colloidal oatmeal is formulated specifically for the bath, and is used to create a variety of itchy skin conditions, including eczema and chicken pox. If your baby is suffering from painful, itchy rashes, an oatmeal bath will provide soothing relief.

Probiotics for Eczema

As the studies above indicate, a healthy gut flora is beneficial in managing and treating eczema symptoms. There are many probiotic strains available for babies of all ages. Young babies can take liquid probiotics with breastmilk or formula. Your child’s pediatrician can recommend a good probiotic for your baby. Older babies can have powdered probiotics sprinkled over solid or pureed foods.

Sun Exposure

According to a 2012 study published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Australian researchers found that the amount of sun exposure that a baby received influenced their chances of developing allergies and eczema. It was found that children in areas of Australia with less natural UV rays were twice as likely to develop eczema. You may be able to help reduce your child’s eczema symptoms simply by exposing him or her to natural sunlight for a few minutes each day. You may also want to give your baby a vitamin D supplement after the age of 3-4 months, as recommended by your pediatrician.

Foods to Improve the Immune System

Stimulating your baby’s immune system after he or she is able to eat solids (sometime after 6 months of age) may help prevent eczema symptoms and flare-ups. Foods that improve the immune system include turmeric, ginger, thyme, fennel, and basil. Fresh fruits and vegetables are also healthy sources of vitamins that older babies can eat. All of these foods are appropriate for older babies, but if you notice any signs of allergies after introducing a certain food, do not offer it again.

If possible, babies should remain on breast milk for at least the first year, and ideally to the second year, according to the World Health Organization. It can also help to avoid immune-harming foods, which include processed foods, sugar, excessive salt, and heat-processed vegetable oils.

Preventative Measures

There are also a few other preventative measures you can take to help reduce eczema flare-ups in your baby. Preventative measures will not address the problem at the source, but they can help prevent painful flare-ups and make your baby feel more comfortable until her eczema is healed. These preventative methods include:

Prevent Infant Eczema
  • Keep pets away from your baby
  • Don’t offer bubble baths
  • Bathe your baby 2 or fewer times a week
  • Place a humidifier in your baby’s room
  • Keep your baby cool to prevent sweating
  • Wipe away drool when you see it and keep your baby’s hands dry
  • Dress your baby in soft clothing to prevent skin irritants
  • Watch for signs of allergies after exposure to food
  • Keep baby bundled in the cold to prevent cracked, dry skin from winter air

Stopping Baby Eczema Naturally

There are many things you can do to help prevent your baby from suffering from painful eczema symptoms. In the vast majority of eczema cases, medications are not necessary. There are many natural things you can do to help stop baby eczema, including probiotic supplements, getting some sun, keeping away irritants, and watching for food allergies. If you follow these steps you will find that your baby is healthier, happier, and more likely to be eczema-free.

Sources


http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12589361

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15863468

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/30/fashion/30skin.html?_r=1&

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