What I’ve Learned About Treating and Preventing Eczema

scratching face

Keeping baby’s fingernails short keeps them from doing too much damage when they itch.

It started with a little patch on the side of my infant son’s face. It was pink, bumpy, raised and about the size of a nickel. Eczema, my pediatrician said. She suggested I try a heavy moisturizer or hydrocortisone ointment. That would help for a day and then it would come back. Unfortunately, that little eczema patch was a permanent fixture on his baby face for an entire year.

He’s six years old now and still gets eczema. But I’ve learned how to prevent major breakouts and treat the minor ones that come along. I wish I knew then what I know now about controlling it. Here’s what I’ve learned:

First, consult your pediatrician about any issues related to your baby’s skin. You don’t want to begin any sort of treatment without an official diagnosis.

Treat eczema aggressively until it disappears completely. Ask your pediatrician what treatment they recommend, because it may vary depending on your child’s age and the severity of the eczema. Hydrocortizone ointment (not cream) is what I use. If you do find something that works, apply it regularly until you see no trace of the eczema left on the skin. My biggest mistake was stopping treatment when it was nearly, but not completely gone.

Prevention is key. Some children are more prone to eczema in very warm or cold weather. Keeping the skin moisturized is critical in preventing a breakout. Over time you’ll identify problem seasons and problem spots so you can focus on those areas. Use a hypoallergenic heavy duty cream like MD Moms Dry Skin Rescue for eczema-prone areas, and an all-over unscented lotion for the rest of the body.

Use extremely mild, unscented products. Anything that’s harsh or scented can irritate eczema-prone skin. Choose your baby wash, lotion and laundry detergent carefully. I’m a fan of the Mustela products and love that they’re available here at Isis. Their 2 in 1 hair and body wash is perfect for bath time. It’s incredibly mild, and like their entire line, free of Parabens, phthalates and phenozyethanol.

Don’t bathe baby every day. Or if you must bathe frequently (say, if it’s part of your bedtime routine), keep the water lukewarm and skip the soap every other night.

Keep fingernails cut very short. Eczema is extremely itchy, and scratching aggravates it further. Our pediatrician calls it “the itch that rashes”. Of course, it’s hard to keep babies and toddlers from scratching – my son used to scratch his at night while he was sleeping. Keeping baby’s fingernails short keeps them from doing too much damage when they itch. Tips for clipping baby’s nails.

Do your research. Recommendations can change based on the results of new studies, so it’s a good idea to stay informed. Healthychildren.org (the AAP) and the American Academy of Dermatology are excellent online resources for more information about identifying, diagnosing and managing eczema.

Cindy Meltzer
Mom of two eczema-prone children

About Cindy Meltzer

Cindy Meltzer is the mother of two school-aged children.

3 Responses to What I’ve Learned About Treating and Preventing Eczema
  1. naomi
    January 12, 2011 | 4:52 pm

    Parents should make sure they are aware of the possible side-effects of long-term hydrocortisone use though, especially on infants.

  2. Sue
    February 13, 2013 | 1:46 pm

    Can you please recommend a shampoo and conditioner for older children (4 and 8)? I feel like their hair gets dry and they need a separate conditioner for moisture (although I rather use a 2 in 1). Thank you for this excellent article!

  3. A Write Relief... (for PND)
    February 13, 2013 | 7:31 pm

    What I’ve personally learned from my baby’s eczema is that every babes experience is different. Whilst advice such as yours is excellent (because it’s general advice), quite often advice can be about a “specific” cause or reason and unfortunately most cases are completely individual. My little man started with a dry rash all over his belly and face at exactly 3 months of age. It gradually got worse and worse until the main “hot spots” were on his cheeks (horrible weeping welts), with other patches behind his kness, and in all main body creases. We tried everything! Finally we had him allergy tested and he was off the charts for dairy and egg. After 2 weeks on a soy based formula at 7 months of age (he was BF until then), his eczema all but cleared up. Like you, we can manage it very easily now but I consider out circumstances to be one of the lucky ones as we actually found it’s origin. It’s such a terribly traumatic and horrible condition for little ones and I empathise with any parent that has to go through this ordeal. Thinking of you all. x

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