You may have seen this week a new study published around National Eczema Week, and the rising case of eczema in babies being linked to having too clean a house. Well Dillon has taken National Eczema Week quite literally, and now has it on his face and arms!
The study hypothesises that with the increasing popularity of antibacterial wipes, sprays and cleanliness, we are killing off germs which would otherwise aid building and strengthening our immune systems. The findings, from Swiss researchers found that households who hand washed their dishes had children with fewer allergies, and were three times less likely to develop allergies.
I agree to an extent with this theory of cleanliness, but I also think genetics, diet and chemicals found in skin products also play their part. I suffered with eczema as a child, perhaps this is why Dillon has developed it now? It really does break your heart to think it may be your fault your baby is suffering.
I have been researching eczema in babies for a while now, here are my thoughts below (after speaking to health professionals and GP’s) on the factors that may contribute to eczema, and caring for dry skin.
So why are eczema cases rising?
- Children are playing indoors a lot more than they are outside, so they are exposed to fewer germs
- Dishwashers. With more households using a dishwasher, we aren’t exposed to the bacteria that hand washing can not remove
- Clean houses. There are so many antibacterial products available to clean your home that they kill the friendly germs which would otherwise help to build and strengthen your baby’s immune system. You can spend all day every day cleaning your house (which mum has time to do this?!). In reality with open windows and doors, and people coming in and out, is it really possible to be germ free?
- Genetics. Eczema tends to run in families. If you or your partner suffer from it, then there is upto an 80% chance of your baby developing it too. Sucks doesn’t it?!
- Products. There are so many products available now marketed especially for new parents that it’s easy to be bewildered by what’s out there and lost in the list of chemicals in the ingredients. Avoid anything which contains SLS (sodium lauryl sulphate) which can dry your baby’s skin, and strip it of it’s natural oils. SLS is mainly used in products to create foam, but there are available which are SLS free and just as good
- Food allergies. There are claims that food allergies can contribute to dry skin and trigger eczema as well as other allergies. If you are weaning and introducing new foods to your baby, keep an eye out for the timing of eczema flare ups coinciding with new (high risk allergy) foods such as peanut butter and dairy. Although if you are breastfeeding, a dairy allergy is probably quite unlikely
- There is no exact known cause of eczema; a multitude of factors contribute to dry skin (we all wish we knew the cause)!
Looking after your baby’s eczema:
- Book an appointment with your GP. This may sound obvious, but there are a whole host of people who avoid trips to the doctors if they can. They doctor might be able to prescribe you an effective cream or ointment to soothe your baby’s skin, or even refer you to a dermatologist who might be able to find the cause of the eczema (our GP has prescribed Dillon an antibiotic cream to use twice a day, an emollient cream and an aqueous cream for the bath in replacement of soap)
- Keep your baby’s skin well moisturised throughout the day. Try not to let it dry out (and give your baby an excuse to scratch). This means the scabs shouldn’t fall off too soon, therefore the skin under the scabs should heal more efficiently
- Look for products which are fragrance, paraben and SLS (sodium lauryl sulphate) free. These chemicals can dry out your skin and are commonly found in shower gels and body lotions. Try natural organic oils such as almond oil and coconut oil to soothe your baby’s dry skin
- Keep the eczema site out of the sun to prevent further damage to the skin
- Keep your baby’s nails short to prevent damaging the skin further when they scratch (I know this too well – Dillon scratched the eczema on his face and it bled, so it is taking a lot longer to heal than it should have)
- Wash your baby’s soft toys and bed linen once a week at 60˚C to kill off any bacteria which might make the eczema worse
- If you are breastfeeding, why not try dabbing a little breast milk on your baby’s eczema? The wonders of breast milk have been well documented
Although eczema isn’t pleasant, my GP and health professionals inform me the majority of baby’s grow out of it after a few years. Unfortunately if your baby is going to develop eczema, there is nothing you can do about it. All we can do is help make the eczema more bearable by keeping the skin hydrated, and by following medical advice from your GP you can hopefully speed up the process of recovery.