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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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