Dermatitis is thankfully not a serious condition, and usually resolves itself over time—but the itchy-though-innocuous scourge can be particularly uncomfortable for baby. Here’s how to identity if your little one is afflicted—and what you can do to help.
Otherwise known as infant eczema, dermatitis usually manifests around 2-4 months of age, and is classified into two types: atopic dermatitis, typically inherited, chronic, and linked to a family history of allergies, eczema and asthma, and contact dermatitis, a rash that occurs when skin is exposed to certain irritants.
Dermatitis in babies tends to appear as patches of flaky, red skin—usually on the cheeks, behind the ears and on the scalp. It can spread to the elbow creases, behind the knees, and around the nappy region if not treated quickly. If left, the flaky skin will also become more inflamed and small fluid-filled vesicles (or pimples) will appear and burst.
Common causes for both types of dermatitis include:
- Moisture (from milk, saliva or sweat)
- Scratchy fabrics
- Cigarette smoke
- Detergents and soaps
To help avoid triggering the condition–
- Ensure baby’s nails are clipped short to prevent scratching, and use cotton mittens at night.
- Keep baby cool and dry because heat spells and moisture (like all that drool!) will cause the dermatitis to flare up.
- On the other hand, make sure baby’s baths are no longer than ten minutes, as staying in water for too long can dehydrate the skin, and too much dryness can also exacerbate the condition. Keep baths lukewarm and short — no longer than 10 minutes — to maintain moisture in baby’s skin. Also; use a mild, fragrance-free baby soap.
- Use a detergent specifically for sensitive skin
- Massaging in a gentle moisturiser after bathtime can also help seal in natural moisture and minimise that itching flakiness.
If your baby’s atopic dermatitis isn’t budging, and is causing distress, you can ask your doc about hydrocortisone creams or antihistamines to reduce the itching.