What is eczema?

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What is eczema?

Eczema, or atopic dermatitis as it is sometimes called, is a disorder which results in dry, inflamed and sometimes weeping or infected skin. It can cause redness and intense itching. Although it can look unpleasant, eczema is not contagious. With treatment, the inflammation of eczema can be reduced.

The first step in effective treatment of eczema is a correct diagnosis from a doctor. It may be necessary to be referred to a specialist. The most common age for babies to develop eczema is between two and six months of age. This often coincides with them beginning to cut their teeth. Most babies are virtually clear of the condition by the time they reach 3 years old.

Treatment tips for babies with eczema:
• Don’t panic – most eczema flares can be managed quite effectively and getting upset will flow through to the baby – it is not your fault.

• Use sensitive washing powder for the whole family.

• Keep baby’s nails short to stop damage to the skin, or cover the baby’s hands with cotton mitts.

• Use cotton or bamboo sheets in cots as well as cotton or bamboo covered products for prams, carriers and car seats.

• Bathe babies daily in a bath of tepid to warm water and always add a hypoallergenic oil or soap free wash. Never use soap based products or bubble bath which dries the skin.

• After bathing, pat the skin with a soft towel leaving it slightly damp. Apply any prescribed steroid creams or ointments, allow time for the medication to be absorbed (about 10 minutes) and then gently apply their moisturiser.

• Steroid creams and ointments prescribed for babies are usually of a very weak formulation (1% hydrocortisone) and can reduce itchiness and speed up healing – they are extremely useful in controlling a flare-up and safe to use.

• Moisturising the skin is very important, this keeps it supple and less likely to crack and also helps relieve itching. Always wash your hands before applying creams or ointments.

• Pop your topical skin products in the fridge – when applied this can help numb hot itchy skin.

• Loose cotton or bamboo clothing helps to avoid skin irritation. Dress babies in layers so they do not overheat.

• Baby will sleep better in a well-ventilated bedroom with minimal heating – if you must have heating on, place 1-2 containers of water in the room to add some moisture.

• Before swimming, cover the baby’s skin with a hypoallergenic barrier cream to avoid irritation. Rinse off immediately after and apply moisturiser.

For more information, a sympathetic voice or a shoulder to lean on, visit www.eczema.org.au or call 1300 300 182.

It is not the policy of the Eczema Association of Australasia Inc to recommend or endorse any product or treatment but is part of the role of the Association to provide information on a wide range of products and treatments to keep those involved with eczema as fully informed as possible as to all options available. For treatment advice consult your health professional.

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