What You Need To know About Infant Eczema
Infant eczema strikes about 1 out of 5 young children, usually occurring some time between the ages of 2 months and 5 years. Infant eczema is seldom serious, though at times the condition may be severe enough to cause problems. Most children outgrow it, though some may not, and an outbreak may only occur once and for a short time, or be more chronic in nature.
Infant eczema is not a disease, but a condition. Eczema is a collection of various skin conditions, all characterized by skin irritation or inflammation, and usually accompanied by itching. Another name for eczema is dermatitis.
Seborrhea - There are a number of types of eczema, some of which are more common among adults or the elderly, and are not usually associated with infants or young children. Some infants contract seborrhea, or seborrheic dermatitis, which resembles dandruff and is sometimes referred to as "cradle cap". The most common type of infant eczema however is atopic eczema.
Atopic Eczema - An atopic person, or an atopic infant is one who has very sensitive skin, usually an inherited condition. Or, put another way, infants having atopic eczema most often, though not always, come from a family with a history of sensitive skin problems. In fact as many as 3 out of 4 infants with atopic eczema come from families prone to having one or another of the atopic diseases. No one knows for certain what exactly causes atopic eczema, or any type of eczema for that matter, although the immune system seems to be involved. Other atopic conditions or diseases, include asthma, hay fever and other allergic reactions. In all of these cases, the immune system is responding to what it considers to be an allergen.
Younger children generally experience symptoms of eczema on the torso, with the exception of seborrhea, which usually confines itself to the head or neck. Older children may have eczema outbreaks in the bends of the elbows or knees, and on the arms or the neck. What can make the condition, though usually not serious, a problem with infants, is that they usually cannot resist scratching where it itches, and itching can at times be a constant presence. Treatment is most often directed towards providing relief or prevention, since the condition is not something that can usually be cured, but can often be controlled.
Types Of Treatment - The most common method of treatment usually involves application of a skin moisturizer, which appears to be effective in many and perhaps most cases. Keeping the skin moist is probably the most effective means of preventing flare ups. Other things that can be done include avoiding sudden temperature changes, which can trigger an episode of inflammation and itching. Even bathing can lead to problems if the bath water is too warm or is hot. Another good practice is cleanliness. Dust mites are known to be a trigger of eczema, and clean bedding, clean clothes, and a clean bedroom can help avoid outbreaks. Cleanliness does not mean using excessive soap during bathing or hand washing however, as all but the mildest soap can be irritating to the skin, and trigger inflammation. By all means, strong or harsh soaps should be avoided.
Vaseline petroleum jelly often is effective when applied to areas having an active flare up, and in the more severe instances, prescription medications may be in order. One needs to be constantly on the lookout for broken skin, whether due to cracking or scratching, as the small wounds can be an invitation to infection. When outbreaks are particularly bad, it may be a good idea to have an antibiotic ointment on hand to prevent an infection from occurring.