As I eluded to in Dean’s 4-month update, we’ve been managing something called “Baby Eczema” for the past few months. It has been a bit tricky to figure out so I thought I’d share some of my tips and tricks for fellow parents dealing with a similar situation.
Before I jump in, I am obviously not a doctor (unless I attended med school unbeknownst to me, LOL) so before you try anything new with your kiddo, check in first with your pediatrician. The following tips and tricks are just what has worked for us so rather than rely on an internet stranger to diagnose and treat your kid, please ask a trained professional ;)
Let’s start at the beginning and how Dean was diagnosed with Baby Eczema. At his 2-month well-baby appointment, he had a little rash on his stomach and in the crease of his elbows. (As a side note, before I had a baby, I never knew how often those things get rashes! Seriously, anything can make their skin slightly pink and bumpy and most causes are nothing to be worried about.) His pediatrician told us that it was a small eczema outbreak and asked if we used anything lavender at home. We did – Our Honest Company hand soap. She told us to get rid of that as well as a few other brands/items including any Tide branded detergent, dryer sheets, Johnson’s baby shampoo/lotion, and any “strong scented” soaps/lotions. Apparently lavender, Tide, and Johnson’s are notorious for causing eczema outbreaks in infants prone to the rash… Who knew?!
So, we stopped using lavender and Johnson’s (we never used Tide to begin with), and began using Cetaphil soap and lotion on Dean. Unfortunately, things didn’t get better and his skin began to look a bit worse as the weeks went on. One day at Target, while I had him in his Baby Bjorn carrier, I touched the back of his knees and swore they were oozing. I put Neosporin on the back of his knees that night and the redness was so much better come morning. At that point I decided to take him back in to his doctor because something was still bothering his skin and there was obviously an infection going on.
We got in with the nurse practitioner (his doctor was busy that day) who was convinced it was just heat rash. I told her about the oozing and she was certain that it was just sweat. I wasn’t convinced – I didn’t think it was possible for Dean to sweat that much and his skin was looking BAD. (See photo below for reference.) But I did what she told me – Kept him naked for a few days and kept his skin dry. A few days later my doctor friend checked in to see how he was doing, I sent her the images below and she told me that I needed to take him back ASAP because it definitely was NOT heat rash.
UGH. I knew it was something more!
So back we went. We saw his pediatrician this time and she confirmed that he had a worse case of Baby Eczema and gave us a game plan along with a few prescriptions to help his itchy skin. His skin is looking 100% better these days! At his 4-month appointment, his doctor told him his skin was beautiful again ;)
Now, for the tips and tricks that have worked for us.
1. Get a correct diagnosis. Like I mentioned above, babies get all sorts of rashes ALL OF THE TIME. Don’t just assume is is Baby Eczema. Schedule an appointment with your pediatrician and have them decide what is causing the rash. Don’t hesitate to get a second opinion either.
2. Bathe in lukewarm water daily. Okay, so the verdict is still out on this one. Some kids do better with fewer baths, but Dean’s skin responds best to daily baths. He splashes around each night right before bedtime while we wash whatever triggers his eczema off of his skin. Win-win ;) Experiment with your baby and see if their skin responds best to daily baths or only a few per week and then do what works best!
3. Be prepared to test out many soaps and lotions. Dean’s bathroom is now full of every brand of baby shampoo. lotion, and soap on the market, ha! Our doctor recommended Cetaphil but we found that only irritated his skin more. We are currently using Dove Sensitive Skin bar soap during bathtime and plain ol’ Vaseline as his lotion. Yup, it’s super sticky and gross, but I put it on him right before swaddling at night and before putting him a long sleeve/pant onesie in the morning so it doesn’t get all over us or the house.
4. Keep the skin hydrated. Eczema tends to flare up when skin is dry. That is when allergens/triggers can get into the skin and cause irritation. So, you want to keep the skin lotioned up to help reduce the amount of flare ups you experience. Enter our Vaseline usage. We also use olive oil on his eyelids/facial area if they are looking dry.
5. Use the prescriptions your doctor provides. Our doctor gave Dean a prescription for an antibiotic ointment (the back of his knees, neck, and elbow creases were in fact infected) as well as for a liquid lotion called Derma-Smoothe. Derma-Smoothe is a super low dose steroid that helps to reduce the inflammation and redness associated with eczema. At first we needed to use it 2x/day but now we only use it when his skin is looking red. Control the dryness and irritation and you can help reduce the flare ups – phew! As an FYI, make sure your insurance covers Derma-Smoothe prior to purchasing. Retail price is around $300 for a tiny bottle!
6. Prevent your baby from scratching at his skin. Easier said than done, eh? Thankfully Dean doesn’t have too much hand-eye coordination these days, but he will scratch at his head if it is itchy. Use mittens, socks, a sleep sack, whatever you need to keep them from irritating their skin further.
7. Wash your entire household’s laundry in Dreft and wash everything frequently. Yes, yours too. If you don’t want to smell like a baby (as Kyle puts it), use All Free & Clear or a similar store brand for your clothing, towels, and sheets. If you have a nanny or family members that visit frequently, request that they use a “free & clear” detergent as well. Wash your child’s clothing, towels, etc. in hot water as well. I have found that the hot water cycle definitely helps Dean’s skin.
8. Remove any triggers/allergens from your home. While you cannot test a baby as young as Dean for allergies (I asked if we could do this and was told that he hasn’t been exposed enough to have a “real” allergy yet, he is just sensitive to certain triggers at this point.), you can figure a few things out by trial and error. For us, we definitely know Tide laundry detergent is a trigger as well as Cetaphil soap/lotion. Pet dander and mold are also potential triggers (mold is very common everywhere in Florida), so washing all fabric surfaces frequently helps remove the particles/pet hair and reduce eczema outbreaks. I have noticed that since we replaced our AC and have better air circulation/filtration, Dean’s skin looks much better. And one other random item… Pamper’s diapers from Amazon. We use Pamper’s brand but I typically purchase them at Target. When I buy them via Amazon I notice that they have a different colored line at the top (red vs. teal) and Dean’s stomach tends to get rashy. Weird, right?
9. Clean your home often but not too often. Dirt and grime and pets are good for kids and the prevention of allergies/building a strong immune system, so while you want to keep a fairly clean house to remove triggers, you also want to leave a little “gunk” (for lack of a better word, LOL) to help their bodies adjust to the world around them. It’s a fine balance ;) I vacuum once per week and mop the entire house every other week (we have all hard surfaced floors besides Dean’s room and the guest bedroom). I *should* dust weekly but we all know that doesn’t happen!
9. Be cautious about what products you use on your body. If your kiddo has eczema be prepared to say goodbye to scented soaps, lotions, strong perfumes, hairsprays, and similar items. We now use the same bar soap that Dean uses and I rarely wear perfume. I also have switched to using CeraVe lotion on myself. Like I mentioned above, we removed everything lavender from our house and I no longer diffuse oils (sad day!).
Eczema isn’t fun to deal with, but it could definitely be worse. With a little work on your part, it is fairly simple to control.
Thankfully, while eczema is a chronic condition, many babies grow out of their eczema by age 4 or 5 so fingers crossed Dean (and your little one) gets better with time. If you would like to read more about eczema in infants and child, the National Eczema Association has great information here.