According to the American Academy of Dermatology, eczema is one of the most common skin conditions in children. It often manifests as dry, scaly patches on the scalp, forehead or face of babies and children. Eczema can be extremely itchy causing infants to rub his/her skin against anything to relieve the itch. In fact they can resort to such intense scratching that it leads to a skin infection.
Fortunately, there is hope. According to recent studies eczema can improve with quality skin maintenance.
How Eczema Causes Dry Skin
In eczema the glue holding the cells together is less strong. For this reason a child suffering with eczema has even more moisture pulled from between the cells. A natural instinct of parents is to bath their child during bad episodes. However, without the proper bathing techniques this could actually make matters worse.
While your child is bathing, the the water is replenishing moisture in the cells, taking away that ashy, dry scale. However, when out of the bath, that water evaporates. And in a child with eczema, it all evaporates.
The Right Bathing Routine for Eczema in Children
There’s a list of tips below for those that prefer bullet points.
To help prevent the moisture from escaping it is important to seal it in right out of the tub. Think of it like a master chef coating a chicken to seal in the flavors. You may laugh but it is important to “grease down like a chicken” after bathing.
While the body is still damp, apply a good quality moisturizer and sometimes a prescription ointment (oitment first). Recommended moisturizers: Aquaphor, Cetaphil, CeraVe or even solid Crisco (not butter flavored though!) would work. Just apply lots of it right away.
Another recommendation would be to give lukewarm (not hot) baths. Following this routine could make a huge difference in as little as a week. But bathing without the moisturizer could undo several days of “good” therapy because the glue isn’t there to prevent the intracellular water loss. Use that moisturizer!
Outline of Bathing skin-care tips for babies/children with eczema
- Bathe your child in warm – not hot – water.
- Limit your child’s time in the bath to five or 10 minutes.
- Use cleanser only when needed and make sure the cleanser is mild and fragrance-free. Do not use bubble bath.
- After bathing, gently pat your child’s skin partially dry
- If your child has topical medicine, apply it when your child’s skin is almost dry and use the medicine as directed. Apply moisturizer on top of the medicine and to the rest of your child’s skin.
Additional tips as recommended by American Academy of Dermatology:
- Apply moisturizer at least twice a day to help prevent dryness and cracking.
- Choose a thick cream or ointment, such as petroleum jelly, which is fragrance-free.
- Keep your child’s fingernails short and smooth. This decreases the likelihood that scratching will puncture the skin.
- Keep the temperature and humidity levels comfortable at home. The most common trigger of the itch-scratch cycle is if a child is overheating.
- Use a laundry detergent made for sensitive skin; scented fabric softener or dryer sheets may contribute to irritation.
- Buy clothes without tags, because they can rub against the skin, causing irritation.
- Wash your child’s new clothes before wearing to remove excess dyes and fabric finishers, which can be irritating.