“Dr. Linda, my doctor just told me my baby has eczema. What does this mean?”
Eczema is a chronic skin condition that causes skin dryness, rashes, and very itchy skin. 5-20% of babies have it and the incidence is increasing worldwide.
Most babies with eczema show eczema symptoms before they are 5 years old. The symptoms tend to fade away with age. Only 20% of kids will still have eczema symptoms 8 years after they were first diagnosed and less than 5% will have them after 20 years.
The main symptoms of eczema are rashes, dry skin, and intense itching.
Eczema rashes look different depending on your baby’s age and how severe her eczema is.The rash may be:
- Red itchy bumps.
- Scaly red patches
- Flaky, scaly areas on the skin.
- Oozing from the skin and crusty lesions.
Where the rash appears also depends on your baby’s age:
In babies less than 2 years old the rash tends to be on the cheeks, scalp and the front of the arms and legs. It spares the diaper area.
In children 2-16 years old the rash mainly affects the inside creases of the elbows, the backs of the knees, and the back of the neck. In some children, it may also affect the face, wrists, and forearms.
Other eczema symptoms:
- Poor sleep because of the severe itching.
- Extra horizontal folds under the eyes.
- Darkening of the skin under the eyes.
- Thin outer eyebrows.
- Fissures and cracking behind the ears.
- Plugged hair follicles on the upper arms, thighs, and cheeks which feel rough and may be red (keratosis pilaris).
- Thick skin on the palms with deep creases.
- Thickening and darkening of the skin in areas where the child scratches a lot.
Who is at risk of developing eczema symptoms?
Children with certain genetic factors:
About 70 percent of babies with eczema have a family history of allergies.
If one parent has allergies the baby has a 2-3-fold higher chance of developing eczema symptoms.
If both parents have allergies this increases to a 3-5-fold higher chance that the baby will develop eczema symptoms.
Certain babies with mutations in a structural protein of the skin (Filaggrin) tend to have more severe eczema.
Children with Food sensitivities:
Between 30-80% of babies with eczema symptoms have food sensitivities and ‘leaky gut’.
Food sensitivity leads to inflammation in the intestines which makes the pores in the gut bigger. This allows larger than normal proteins to get into your child’s blood. These large proteins can then cause inflammation, allergic reactions and autoimmune responses including eczema.
The most common food sensitivities associated with eczema are:
- Cow’s milk.
- Tree nuts.
Children exposed to ‘hard water’:
Exposure to ‘hard water’ containing high levels of Calcium carbonate seems to increase the chances of babies developing eczema. Studies are being carried out to see if using water softeners lower this risk.If you have a baby at high risk of developing eczema, keeping her skin well hydrated early on may prevent the development of eczema symptoms.
Other conditions associated with eczema:
- Skin infections with bacteria, viruses or fungi.
- Hay fever, asthma, and food allergies.
- Severe (Anaphylactic) reactions to certain foods like peanuts.
- Sleep problems ( mainly from the itching).
- Anxiety, depression, and ADHD.
- Obesity and metabolic syndrome.
- Lymphoma of the skin.
Treatment of eczema symptoms:
The holistic treatment of eczema includes:
- Keeping your baby’s skin moist and well hydrated. You can do this not just through the use of moisturizers on the skin but through feeding your baby a diet that lowers inflammation and that supplies her with the nutrients she needs for strong healthy skin.
- Avoiding eczema symptom triggers such as using soaps with color and fragrance, letting your baby get too hot, or exposing her skin to fabrics which may increase her symptoms.
- Treating the skin inflammation caused by eczema.
- Controlling the itching. caused by the dryness and irritation.
- Itching is one of the most disturbing aspects of eczema. It makes the child very uncomfortable and, in many cases, unable to sleep. When your baby can’t get good quality deep sleep, her body isn’t as effective at healing itself. If you have a baby/child with eczema make sure that your doctor addresses the treatment of itching.
Next week we’ll go through the holistic treatment of eczema in more detail. There is so much more you can do to help your baby than you realize! Please stay tuned.
Please post any questions or comments you may have and I will answer them on my blog or in the upcoming’ Dr. Linda Answers’ video series.
To your Holistic health,