Baby Eczema: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment
Eczema is a common, non-contagious skin condition that affects people of all ages, including babies and children. It often appears within the first six months to five years of a child’s life. Red, itchy, inflamed skin is the main symptom of baby eczema, and there are a variety causes and triggers.
What you need to know
Symptoms of eczema in babies and children are similar to those seen in adults. Marked by red, itchy and inflamed skin, especially on the face, as well as the creases of the elbows and legs, infant eczema usually has the same causes and triggers as adult eczema.1 However, the sensitive nature of young skin can require additional precautions to help prevent flare-ups. The best first step for managing baby eczema is talking to your pediatrician or dermatologist, who will likely recommend specially-formulated washes, lotions, creams or other products to help keep the skin moisturized. Other ingredients such as ceramides that help maintain baby's delicate skin barrier and calming ingredients such as niacinamide can be helpful as well.2
What Causes Eczema in Babies & Toddlers
- According to the National Eczema Association, atopic dermatitis is one of the most common forms of eczema, affecting roughly 13% of children in the United States
- Babies and children with a family history of eczema are more likely to develop this skin condition3
- Baby eczema is believed to be caused by genetics and external factors3
What is baby and toddler eczema?
Similar to adults, baby eczema is marked by red, itchy, inflamed skin. There are several types of eczema, and one called seborrheic dermatitis is the cause of “cradle cap,” which is unique to infants.4 Although there is no cure, a combination of preventative measures, avoiding triggers and managing symptoms like itching can help keep baby eczema under control.
What does baby and toddler eczema look like?
In addition to persistent itching, baby eczema causes redness and a rash-like appearance. The skin can become very dry or scaly and develop crusted or oozing blister-like lesions. Baby eczema and eczema in children most often appears first on the face, elbows and knees since these spots are easy to scratch and exposed to friction while crawling. Infant eczema can spread to other parts of the body, but is rarely seen in the diaper area because of the extra moisture. As children age, eczema can develop inside the elbows, on the hands, behind the ears, on the feet and scalp. However, it’s important to keep in mind that symptoms of eczema in babies and children can vary from case to case, so it is best to consult your dermatologist or pediatrician if you believe your child may have eczema.1
What causes eczema in babies and toddlers?
The redness, dryness, itching and other symptoms of eczema in babies occur when something in the environment causes the immune system to overreact. There are a wide variety of baby eczema triggers, including dry skin, rough fabrics, soaps, detergents, heat, sweat, infections and allergens such as dust, pollen and pet dander.1
Baby and toddler eczema treatments
A good way to manage your baby's eczema is to know your child’s unique symptoms and triggers—and help keep skin hydrated with a regular regimen of gentle cleansing and moisturizing. Short, lukewarm baths are ideal, and it’s better to pat the skin dry and avoid rubbing. Immediately after bathing, apply a fragrance- and sulfate-free moisturizer. (A product formulated with ceramides can help maintain the skin’s barrier.) You can also ask your pediatrician or dermatologist to recommend an eczema lotion or eczema cream to treat symptoms. In addition to this bath-time routine, apply moisturizer throughout the day to keep your baby's skin hydrated, especially when dryness or itching is apparent.5 However, avoid applying products on your baby's hands since they are likely to put them in their mouth.
If at-home care doesn’t improve your baby's symptoms, it’s best to seek the advice of a pediatrician or dermatologist who may recommend additional treatment options, like prescription-based topicals, light therapy or other medications.6
- Ruzicka, B. Przybilla, J. Ring (2006) Handbook of Atopic Eczema; 2nd edition; Springer
- Sidbury R, Tom WL, et al. “Part 4: Guidelines of care for the management of atopic dermatitis. Part 4: Prevention of disease flares and use of adjunctive therapies and approaches.”J Am Acad Dermatol. 2014 Jul;71(1);1218-33.