How to Heal Your Child’s Eczema

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Find out what eczema is, what causes eczema, how to treat your child’s eczema, and what products to use for treating your little one’s eczema.

Baby with eczema

Let me let you in a little secret if you haven’t already figured this out. Recommendations from the medical profession change, and change often.

Just think back over things like when to introduce solids and if babies should sleep on backs or tummies.

Advice for how to best treat eczema is no different. There is “traditional” advice, and then there is the more “contemporary” advice that not all doctors have even really been updated on yet.

My third child had eczema and we took a long path of figuring out how best to treat and heal her eczema. It is not a simple solution.

This post contains information on how to help treat eczema. I will share all the advice I know, and some of it will be conflicting. What works for one baby will not work for another.

WHAT IS ECZEMA?

The term eczema covers a broad spectrum of things. Basically, it is skin irritation.

With eczema, no matter the cause, the skin will get irritation, inflamed, and often has a rash. Skin is often dry. It can blister, crack, and bleed.

Eczema is typically itchy. Eczema is itchy before the rash appears. I found this picture on Wikipedia. It states this is a mild case of eczema:

WHAT CAUSES ECZEMA?

There are lots of theories on what causes Eczema, and the exact cause isn’t exactly known.

  • Eczema is itchy before it rashes. The rash comes out after it has been itched, rubbed, or irritated.
  • It might be caused by the body overreacting to some trigger.
  • For some, it is an allergic reaction. Many times, this happens in families where asthma and hay fever are common. It can be a reaction to a food allergy or another allergen.
  • For some, it is caused by an irritant like the type of laundry detergent used.
  • Dry weather can have an effect.

With McKenna, I think the dry weather has a negative impact on her skin. I also have noticed that skin that gets rubbed a lot flares up into eczema. Her forearms get it now that she crawls. Before she was a crawler, it was her back right where I would hold her.

HOW DO I TREAT ECZEMA?

First of all, Eczema is not contagious. Second of all, it cannot be cured, which is why I titled this section how to “treat.”

The problem with eczema is that it is itchy and sometimes painful. If the person with eczema is capable of scratching, she can scratch to the point of causing an infection in the skin. Let’s take the treatment one section at a time.

BATHING

The “traditional” advice on bathing is to bathe as little as possible. The idea is that it dries the skin out and makes everything worse.

The modern advice is to bathe as often as possible–at least once a day. I have read articles that say dermatologists will tell you to bathe daily, while many pediatricians are still saying bath as few times as possible.

A study published nearly a year ago used diluted bleach water each day. Half of the group used bleach and half a placebo. The bleach worked so effectively that they terminated the study early in order to provide the other half the relief.

So how do you decide what to do? I think you just need to experiment and see what works best. I created an Eczema spreadsheet to help me track things.

For about the first six months of McKenna’s life, we bathed every day. That has always been my routine with my children. Around 6 months it got to be a challenge on school days, so we went down to bathing four days a week.

When she was about 8 months old, she developed Eczema. This was around the time of year it got cold and the heater came on a lot more. We live in a dry climate.

On days she has a bath, her skin is amazing and much better than on days she doesn’t. So for us, I believe bathing at least every other day is best, and I plan to try out every day soon.

I have dry skin. It isn’t eczema, but it is really dry. My skin gets really bad if I don’t shower every day–even if I apply lotion. Putting lotion on damp skin is much more effective than putting it on dry skin.

Another thing to consider with the bath is the temperature of the water. You don’t want it too hot or too cold. Lukewarm bathwater is pretty universally suggested.

I think the best thing to do is to try out different intervals of bath and see what works best.

Of course, you need the right soaps and such for bath time or else you will irritate the skin more.

Treat your child's painful eczema pinnable image

Soaps/Body Washes

First, note that true “soap” is not a good idea. It is drying. Body washes/creams/cleansers are what you are after. There are a lot of soaps out there. A lot. And they are expensive. Unless you have a lot of money floating around, it is hard to figure out which one is “best” for your child. For that reason, I created the polls on which worked best.

I think there are a lot of products because different products work for different children. If there was an overall bad product out there, it wouldn’t be long before it was out of business. But seeing a poll might give you a good starting point. For bath wash I did the following poll on which bath wash worked best:

Aquaphor: 42 votes (24%)

Aveeno: 62 votes (36%)

Burt’s Bees: 3 votes (1%)

California Baby: 9 votes (5%)

Cerave: 7 votes (4%)

Dove Soap: 14 votes (8%)

Other bar soap: 2 votes (1%)

Other: 30 votes (17%)

Total of 169 votes

We have Aveeno, Aquaphor, and Burt’s Bees. Those are the products we have tried thus far. Aveeno works best for McKenna, but I think Aquaphor works fine, too. I don’t see problems with Burt’s Bees, either.

This is my opinion about the soaps. I think so long as you get something that is fragrance-free, you should be fine. I think of all the products, the soap is the least critical so long as it is fragrance-free. I also think you don’t necessarily need to wash your child with soap every time they take a bath unless they are actually dirty.

Shampoo
If your child has eczema, she might also have dry scalp, dandruff, cradle cap, etc. While I don’t think the soaps matter much, the shampoos do.
 
Aveeno: 68 votes (25%)

Aquaphor: 26 votes (10%)

Burt’s Bees: 15 votes (6%)

California Baby: 24 votes (9%)

Coconut Oil: 6 votes (2%)

Dermamed: 1 votes (0%)

Gentle Naturals: 7 votes (3%)

Head & Shoulders: 30 votes (11%)

Olive Oil: 23 votes (8%)

Other Oil: 17 votes (6%)

Other: 51 votes (19%)

Cerave: 4 votes (1%)

Total of 272 votes

I highlighted the top two vote getters–other than the “other” since that doesn’t give you anything concrete. My vote on this poll was for Burt’s Bees. We had tried Head & Shoulders and Burt’s Bees at the time. After seeing the results to this poll, I decided to try Aquaphor and Aveeno.

Burt’s Bees prevented her scalp from getting worse. It didn’t get better, but it also didn’t get worse. I would brush her head with a stiff bristle brush before the bath and use Burt’s Bees and we kept things as they were.

But the Aveeno did the trick! Aveeno is my new vote, hands down. I no longer brush her head and the dryness is 100% gone.

Another thing to consider with baths is the softness of the water. We got soft water about a month after McKenna’s symptoms showed up. It made a huge difference! It has gone out since, and when it did, her skin got much worse, then improved when it was fixed. With the water softener, I only have to lotion her once a day. With hard water, I need to lotion her twice a day.

Post Bath
I wrap McKenna in a towel and just pat her dry. Do not rub. Make sure the towel is washed in appropriate laundry detergent, as discussed below.

This is how I do post bath. I lay her on her towel and wrap her up. Then I carry her in a cradle hold. As I walk to her room, I rub her head to dry her hair. Once we are in her room, I pat her diaper area dry. Then I put her diaper on. Then I start the lotioning. I don’t need to dry any other area of the skin.

LOTIONING

Creams/Steroids/Antibiotics
Medicated Creams, steroids, and antibiotics need to go on before you apply any lotions. When McKenna has a flare up, I use Hydrocortisone Cream. I don’t use it every day, but do when she needs it.

Lotions
Once your creams and steroids and all that (as needed) have had a minute or two to set in, start the lotioning.
With lotions, choosing the right product is important.

Aquaphor: 67 votes (26%)

Aveeno: 56 votes (21%)

Burt’s Bees: 11 votes (4%)

Cerave: 7 votes (2%)

Deramed: 0 votes (0%)

Eucerin: 26 votes (10%)

Prescription: 17 votes (6%)

Other: 57 votes (22%)

Total of 256 votes

I have used Aquaphor and Aveeno on McKenna. They work so well that I haven’t gone any further. I use both. I first load up the Aquaphor, then follow up with the Aveeno. If I could only buy one, I would use the Aquaphor. I should mention that I have read to not put any sort of lotion over something like Aquaphor, but I have had great success with it, so I do it. Take this into consideration as you figure out what works best for your baby.

If your baby’s skin has a rash, I suggest you lotion morning and night until it is gone. If there is currently no rash, try lotioning only once per day and see if that controls it.

This stuff is expensive, yes. Here is the good news. As I write this, McKenna has been using it for over four months. She is still on her first tubes of these items (all of them). I used the lotioning stuff twice a day for two months. So it does last a long time. A baby’s body is small 🙂

DAILY LIVING

There is definitely more to do beyond the bathing and lotioning.

Diapers
If your child has eczema, you will find some diaper rash creams/ointments definitely work better than others. There are a whole lot of options out there, and you will notice that there are not really a high concentration of votes like in the other polls:

A&D Ointment: 14 votes (5%)

Amolin: 2 votes (0%)

Aquaphor: 62 votes (24%)

Balmex: 6 votes (2%)

Boudreaux’s Butt Paste: 27 votes (10%)

Burt’s Bees: 11 votes (4%)

California Baby: 16 votes (6%)

Desitin: 21 votes (8%)

Desitin Extra Strength: 6 votes (2%)

Dr. Smith’s: 2 votes (0%)

Grandma El’s: 0 votes (0%)

Hydrocortizone Cream: 19 votes (7%) or try this cortisone eczema cream

Other: 23 votes (9%)

Triple Paste: 18 votes (7%)

Vasoline: 7 votes (2%)

Weleda: 6 votes (2%)

I think this result just adds to the value in purchasing Aquaphor. Something to consider with this choice is how you diaper. Some of these are much better for clothe diapering than others (so I am told 🙂 ).

I have never used Aquaphor on the bottom, but I am thinking I should try it.

I have used Balmex and don’t like it at all. I would never pay money for it.

I love Butt Paste. It was so fabulous for Brayden and Kaitlyn; however, it did not work at all for McKenna.

Burt”s Bees is our current use for McKenna. I really like it. It works well.

I LOVE the Lansinoh. Really love. It is impossible to find where I live, so I need to order it online. The next time we need to buy diaper ointment for McKenna, I think I will try Lansinoh and try it in the context of eczema. I have not complaints about Burt’s Bees, but I want to see if I like Lansinoh better.

I have to put diaper ointment on at every diaper change.

You should probably also watch the brand of diapers you use. Some will be more irritating to your baby than others.

Laundry

When you do laundry, make sure you wash your child’s clothes, sheets, towels, etc. in “free” detergents. I use Dreft for McKenna and that has been fine–no problems.

If you want to use a fabric softener, you can use Bounce Free.

For my babies, I always use a baby-friendly detergent. I wash their clothes separately for the most part, though I will add pinks and reds to the girl’s pinks and reds. I typically do this for the first year, but for McKenna, I will extend it as long as she has eczema. If she continues to have eczema (many stop having issues around 18 months), then I will switch the family over to All Free and Clear.

I just don’t use fabric softener for my baby clothes, but I am thinking the Bounce Free sounds like a good idea.

Dressing
When dressing your child, try to use 100% cotton clothing. It breathes better. It is a natural fabric. Avoid scratchy materials like wool. You also want to avoid overheating your child.

Humidifier
Use a humidifier if you live in a dry climate.

Supplements
There are supplements you can try. One is fish oil. You can take fish oil supplements if you are breastfeeding and it will transfer through your milk. It is fat soluble, so it will take a couple of weeks to make it through. If you are not breastfeeding, you can try adding it to bottles or food, but be sure to consult with a doctor first. You can also feed your child fish if she is old enough. Studies have found children who eat fish do better with eczema.

A recent study suggests that Vitamin D3 helps improve skin. This vitamin is found in the sun, so during the winter, many people will not get enough. Again, if you are breastfeeding, you can take about 2000 IUs a day. It is also fat soluble so expect two weeks before seeing improvement. One of my best friends growing up had eczema, and her skin always got better if it had some exposure to the sun, so I believe this has some validity to it. If your child is not breastfeeding, talk to you pediatrician about ways to get more D3 into your child in the winter.

SUMMARY
As a summary, to treat eczema:

  • Figure out the best way to bath baby and which products to use.
  • Figure out which creams and lotions are best. Use steroids if needed (as discussed with a doctor).
  • Find the best diapers for your baby.
  • Figure out the best diaper rash ointment for baby. You will likely need to use it at every diaper change.
  • Do laundry in a “free” detergent.
  • Dress in cotton as much as possible.
  • Use a humidifier if needed.
  • Try to find the cause of the eczema. If it is caused by an allergy, then you can greatly diminish if not eliminate eczema. Most babies with eczema just have eczema, but some have it because of allergies.
  • Take supplements as desired

Conclusion

Please feel free to share what works and doesn’t work for your child on this post. Like I said, there are many things that work for some and not for others and the more info moms have, the more likely they will be able to find what works.

I will be taking all previous comments from readers on eczema and putting them into their own post, so if you have posted your tips before, don’t feel like you have to do it here. You are welcome to, it won’t bother me in the least, but you don’t need to.

There is also a lot of great info in this group on Babycenter. You don’t need an account to read the info, just to post questions/comments.

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