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.
Between 5-20% of all babies have eczema and its incidence is increasing worldwide.
Most babies with eczema show eczema symptoms early on and most of them have symptoms before they are 5 years old. Eczema symptoms tend to fade away with age and only 20% of kids will still have eczema symptoms 8 years after they were first diagnosed. Less than 5% of children will still have symptoms after they reach 20 years of age.
The main symptoms of eczema are :
Eczema rashes which can look different depending on your child’s age and how severe the eczema is
Eczema rashes can look like
Red itchy bumps
Scaly red patches
Flaky, scaly areas on the skin.
Oozing from the skin and crusty lesions.
The areas affected by eczema
The areas affected by eczema 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.
In addition to skin rashes and dry skin eczema may also cause other 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 which can cause inflammation, allergic reactions and autoimmune responses including eczema.
The most common food sensitivities associated with eczema are:
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.
The symptoms of eczema can be so frustrating to both kids and parents. But please don’t get too frustrated, there is so much more you can do to help your baby than you realize!
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