Baby Eczema: What You Need to Know
Q+A with Dr. Tiffany Otto Knipe
What is eczema exactly?
Eczema (also called “atopic dermatitis”) is a chronic/recurring, inflammatory skin disease that is characterized by itchiness. The skin will appear red, dry, flaky and “rough” or bumpy. Occasionally the rash appears circular, and it can be scattered or located in target areas. In infants the most common areas this occurs is the face and scalp, but it can also occur on the legs, arms and body. Older children typically get eczema behind their elbows and knees.
What are some symptoms a baby with eczema might experience? What are some signs your baby might have it?
Signs a baby has eczema include scratching (which will often precede the appearance of the rash), patches of redness or dry/rough patches on the skin. The skin is itchy so you may notice your infant scratching or rubbing at their face or body. The skin may have scattered red areas and patches of dry, flaky, or rough skin. Often if the skin is very itchy you may notice your infant is irritable and fussy.
What are some possible causes of eczema? Is it environmental? Hereditary?
Both! There are genetic factors that make developing eczema more likely. An infant may be more prone to developing eczema is if there is eczema, allergies or asthma in close family members. But of course there are environmental triggers, too. Fragranced soaps, lotions, laundry detergents, wool or synthetic clothing materials against the skin can all trigger eczema. Exacerbating factors also include excessive bathing without moisturizing afterwards, low-humidity environments, and dry or overheated skin. In older children and adults, stress can also be a trigger for eczema flare-ups.
What advice do you have for parents who are trying to avoid flare-ups and keep their babies skin comfortable?
- Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize! But please make sure you use fragrance-free moisturizer or, even better, coconut oil, shea butter, olive oil or oatmeal baths.
- Maintain humidity in the air by turning on a cool mist humidifier in the baby’s room.
- Avoid temperature extremes (too hot or too cold weather tends to trigger eczema).
- Keep bath time under 10 minutes.
- Dress your infant in loose-fitting cotton clothing.
- Keep your baby’s fingernails short so that when they are experiencing flare-ups and feel itchy, they will be less likely to break the skin when scratching (and therefore will avoid introducing bacteria under the skin and starting an infection.)
If a parent did want to go beyond moisturizer, what products do you recommend for relief?
Mommy’s Bliss products are created by and targeted for mother and infant wellness. The products are made in the US and Canada, and they rely on the use of natural remedies to maintain health. I am particularly looking forward to the launch of Baby Eczema Ease Daily Moisturizer—it combines the most effective natural ingredients into one product that can not only help to repair itchy, eczema skin but, if used regularly, will help to prevent flare-ups, too.
Dr. Tiffany Otto Knipe, MD is a board-certified pediatrician, a Clinical Instructor at New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center and New York University Langone Medical Center, founder of Washington Market Pediatrics, and a specialist in Pediatric Infectious Diseases. She completed her undergraduate training at University of Pennsylvania, then went on to medical school at Jefferson Medical College. She completed her Pediatric residency at New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center, and then went on to complete fellowship training in Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Yale University and NYU Langone Medical Center. Dr. Tiffany is a long-time resident of TriBeCa and she loves raising her two boys in the neighborhood. As fixtures in the community, she and her family are often out playing sports at Pier 25, picnicking in Battery Park, and planting in their garden in Washington Market Park.