Bathing and moisturizing routines to soothe baby eczema
Eczema is a recurring skin condition that usually appears within the first 6 months of life. Its main symptom is an itchy rash on your baby’s cheeks, arms, and legs. Soothe your baby’s eczema by bathing and moisturizing your baby and using a bleach bath or corticosteroids.
Eczema is a recurring skin condition that usually appears within the first 6 months of life. Its main symptom is an itchy rash on your baby’s cheeks, arms, and legs.
The skin irritation can range from mild to severe and can be distressing for both you and your baby. There are many ways to soothe your baby’s skin. Find the routine that works best for you and stick to it. A consistent routine will help prevent flare-ups — which are times when there are a lot more red spots and itchiness.
You’ll want to come up with a regular bath-time routine for your baby that focuses on keeping their skin moist. It’s important to not use any kind of soap when washing your baby — including bubble bath — because they can cause skin irritation.
Instead of using soap, bathe your baby in a once-daily bath in lukewarm water with a fragrance-free cleanser. Then, use a moisturizing cream all over the body. Apply the moisturizer within 3 minutes of getting out of the water — when your baby’s skin is still a bit damp. You can moisturize your baby’s entire body twice a day.
In drier months, use products thicker than lotions like ointments. Creams and ointments are recommended over lotions and oils because they are better at keeping skin from drying out.
Is a bleach bath right for your baby?
Bleach baths are not usually recommended for babies, but in difficult cases, your doctor may want to try them. Don’t attempt these baths unless your doctor has recommended it and specified a routine.
When trying a bleach bath, carefully measure the amount of bleach that you use or you may harm your baby’s skin further. A typical ratio is 1 teaspoon of bleach for a baby-sized bath or half a cup of bleach for a filled full-size bathtub. The bath should last 5 to 10 minutes. Follow this by rinsing your baby’s entire body with regular water.
Use of corticosteroids to soothe baby eczema
In moderate to severe cases, you may want to use over-the-counter corticosteroid products — including creams, ointments, and sprays. Though you may hesitate to use these relatively harsh creams on your baby’s skin, corticosteroids are the best at soothing red, itchy spots that can appear on the skin. They are one of the best ways to soothe your baby during flare-ups.
Apply the corticosteroid directly on the red areas before using your normal moisturizer. Then, apply moisturizer all over the skin, including right on top of the corticosteroid. There are stronger prescription steroids that your doctor may decide are right for your baby.
Overall, if you need to use corticosteroids, it’s better to use them sooner rather than later. Around 30% of babies with eczema also get food allergies, usually to cow milk or eggs.
A study done at the Japanese National Center for Child Health and Development found that if you use corticosteroids within the first 4 months of seeing your baby’s symptoms, it can lower their chances of getting food allergies by the time they’re 2 years old. The chances of getting these allergies are higher when you do not apply the corticosteroids until after your baby has shown symptoms for over 4 months.
Prevent scratching or rough treatment of the skin?
Some of the worst problems that eczema can cause come from scratching the skin around the itchy spots. Small openings in the skin can lead to new problems like bacterial infections. To cut down on scratching:
- Keep your baby’s nails clipped short
- Cover your baby’s hands with mittens or socks
- Pat your baby dry after a bath instead of rubbing or scrubbing with the towel and then apply moisturizer while they are still a bit wet
When to see a doctor or dermatologist
If your baby has not yet been diagnosed as having eczema, talk to your doctor whenever you first notice a rash. If your baby has already been diagnosed, then your doctor will be helpful in recommending the particular kinds of moisturizers and over-the-counter corticosteroids to use. Talk to your doctor when:
- Flare-ups last for multiple days
- Symptoms keep getting worse
- You notice pus or other signs of possible infection
- Before trying a bleach bath
- If you think you might need to try a stronger, prescription medicine
Though it can be stressful, you should be patient with both your baby and your doctor. It may take some time to figure out the routine that is best for you.
Parenting Guide: Healthy Eating for Kids
Medically Reviewed on 9/21/2021
American Academy of Dermatology Association: “How to Treat Eczema in Babies.”
Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice: “Earlier aggressive treatment to shorten the duration of eczema in infants resulted in fewer food allergies at 2 years of age.”
Pediatric Dermatology: “Awareness of and phobias about topical corticosteroids in parents of infants with eczema in Hangzhou, China.”
Seattle Children’s Hospital Research Foundation: “Eczema.”
UChicagoMedicine: “What is pediatric eczema, and when should we see a doctor?”