Your child has eczema: What now?

If your story is anything like ours then it involves mystery rashes, doctors appointments and a very sore and sad baby. Our daughter was diagnosed with eczema and allergies at a very young age, initially mistaken for milk rash. Her little face would swell, crack and bleed. When we swaddled her to prevent scratching she would desperately rub the side of her sweet face back and forward on her sheets until it was raw. It was heartbreaking to see her in so much pain and discomfort. So I threw myself into researching the condition and ways to help. We saw multiple GP’s, a paediatric dermatologist and and several allergists in search of answers then used trial and error on dozens of products and techniques before coming up with this action plan which greatly improved her day-to-day flare ups. Every child is different, but I hope this gives you some ideas on where to start based on what worked for us.

PLEASE NOTE: not intended as medical advice

Washing detergent

First point of call. Change THE WHOLE FAMILY to a sensitive washing detergent, ideally a liquid (this prevents clumps of powder concentrating in your wash). We use Omo Sensitive Liquid. Immediately wash bedding and anything that will touch bubs exposed skin. If your little is small enough that people are cuddling them, take muslin cloths or thin blankets to cover the holders’ clothes and prevent bubs skin from touching things that are not washed in sensitive. After we saw the dramatic improvement from this easy change our entire extended family switched to sensitive washing detergent to limit her exposure even more.

Ditch your baby products!

You probably have a bunch of “baby safe” shampoos, bath washes, creams, wipes and other products. PLEASE be aware that these are not necessarily as gentle as they claim to be. One of our worst ever eczema outbreaks happened immediately after using an extremely popular and ‘trusted’ baby wash from Johnsons & Johnsons, it almost looked like a chemical burn. Approach every product with care, read ingredients lists and try on small areas first, waiting a day for any reaction. Even better, ditch them altogether and go straight for an eczema friendly DERMATOLOGICALLY TESTED product. We trialled dozens of products and spent hundreds of dollars in the process before finding the Dermaveen range. Made from colloidal oatmeal, it was extremely gentle and effective while still acting as a moisturiser. It is also endorsed by several eczema/dermatology organisations. In terms of wipes, forget all the fancy smells and additives. Go straight to the water wipes! We found the “Water Wipes” brand to be the gentlest by far, but they are pricey. The Curash Water Wipes do the job and can generally be found at a lower price.

Allergy bedding

Under recommendation from the paediatric dermatologist, we purchased AllergEnd covers for both bubs AND our own mattresses (and pillows). The covers are made of tightly woven cotton and have zips which encase the entire mattress. The covers prevent dust and dust mite allergens from irritating the skin. They are an investment, but not only did we see her waking up from naps with less redness and eczema but she actually began sleeping for longer.

Side note: her dads’ intermittent sniffly/sneezy periods also lifted!

Bump the baths

To bath or not to bath. This debate is still hotly contested in both eczema and scientific communities. Personally, by limiting baths of our baby to every second day or less (while keeping nappy area well wiped and clean) we saw a reduction in dryness and irritation. Little babies are kept in mostly clean surroundings (ie in cots, bouncers and prams). They can do without a daily bath regardless of whether they have eczema. For days when bath time is on it is very important to:

  • ensure the water is not hot – lukewarm is ideal
  • do not use perfumed washes, bubble baths or ANYTHING that may irritate the skin
  • add an oil or water dispersable moisturiser that you have tested for irritation – we used QV Baby bath oil
  • do not spend more than 5-10 minutes in the bath, especially during flare ups
  • PAT SKIN DRY, do not rub
  • cover skin in moisturiser WITHIN 2 MINUTES of coming out of the bath, this is extremely important to prevent moisture loss – we used Sorbolene cream for the first few months before discovering Dermaveen lotion, both are effective.

Get ahead of the breakouts

What’s better than treating sore and irritated skin? Preventing it in the first place. This is not always possible, but through a long process of observation be were able to recognise some typical triggers. For our bub, this included when she rubbed her skin on clothing not washed in sensitive detergent, having food touch her face, using generic baby wipes, exposure to drying agents (eg cold winds, sun exposure, swimming in pools) Once we could pinpoint these issues we used a barrier cream to prevent irritants from coming into contact with her skin. We have these tubs of Dermaveen Eczema Ointment all around. At home, at the grandparents place, in the car etc and use it especially often around her mouth before and after meals. We now also use the barrier cream on cold or windy days, before playing in sand, before swimming in chlorine and at the first sign of any pink or irritated skin.

Working from the inside too

Remember those countless hours of research I mentioned? I went deep down the rabbit hole. I was reading EVERYTHING, from home remedies to scientific journals. What I did discover was compelling evidence linking probiotics with reduced eczema symptoms. In fact, some studies suggested that probiotics during pregnancy and breastfeeding could potentially prevent it altogether. I talked to my doctors (who saw no harm in trying) and immediately began taking specialised breastfeeding probiotics. When my daughter weaned we started adding probiotic powder to her meals and I made sure to take pregnancy probiotics throughout carrying the twins. (neither of whom have any sign of eczema or sensitive skin… coincidence? Maybe! But I’m counting it as a win!)

What I CAN tell you is that when we are consistent with the probiotics, our oldest has less flare ups, less severe reactions AND almost never requires steroid cream treatment any more. We have found both the Life Space or the Ethical Nutrients Inner Health brand to be very effective. Life Space offers a range of specialised products (eg probiotics for baby/breastfeeding/pregnancy) and Inner Health has eczema specific probiotics.

Hang in there!

Seeing your child in pain is one of the hardest things to get through as a parent. I sincerely hope that you are able to use some of these tips and recommendations to help ease/manage your child’s eczema symptoms. It may be quite a road ahead, with every child and skin reaction being so different, but remember that you might be one trial off a small or large improvement or breakthrough. Please feel free to ask any questions in the comments below and all the best with your little one!

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