What Triggers Eczema in Babies?

Medically Reviewed on 3/25/2021

Causes of eczema in babies

Although the cause of eczema isn't completely understood, up to 10 percent of babies and toddlers have it. Triggers for eczema in babies include irritant, allergens, environmental factors, food, sensitive skin, stress, animals, herpes viral infection and stress.
Although the cause of eczema isn’t completely understood, up to 10 percent of babies and toddlers have it. Triggers for eczema in babies include irritant, allergens, environmental factors, food, sensitive skin, stress, animals, herpes viral infection and stress.

Although the cause of eczema isn’t completely understood, up to 10 percent of babies and toddlers have it. If you have a family history of eczema, asthma or hay fever, your baby may be more likely to develop it. Eczema in adults may not look the same in a child, which is why identifying symptoms and triggers is important to protect your baby’s skin. Triggers of eczema in babies may include

Irritants

  • Many soaps, disinfectants and fragrances can make eczema worse for your baby’s skin.
  • Common products that may cause flare-ups include detergents and dryer sheets, bubble baths and some shampoos, disinfectants such as chlorine, dyes and coarse fabrics such as wool and other rough materials.

Allergens

  • Typical allergens such as dust mites, pet dander, pollen and mold can cause itchy, inflamed skin. Eczema is not an allergic reaction to a substance, but allergens or irritants in the environment (such as pollen or cigarette smoke) can trigger it.
  • Make your home an allergy-free zone by vacuuming and wet dusting frequently and keeping soft toys (which trap dust) to a minimum and washing them often.Groom pets regularly.

Environment

  • Extremes in temperature and humidity may trigger an eczema flare-up.
  • Environmental triggers include very hot or very cold temperatures, high or low humidity, cigarette smoke and pollution.
  • Keep your baby’s bedroom temperature between 68°F and 72°F and maintain even humidity in your home.
  • Use a humidifier if the air in your home is dry.

Food

  • It’s relatively rare in infants, but 1 in 10 children with eczema experience symptoms caused by food allergies. In general, children under the age of five years old with severe eczema also may have a food allergy, most commonly triggered by milk, eggs, nuts, seeds or wheat. Some children with eczema develop severe allergic reactions to foods and many develop asthma and hay fever symptoms as they get older.

Abnormal or sensitive skin

  • Skin is a barrier that protects you against bacteria, irritants and allergens.
  • Children with an abnormal skin barrier lose moisture from the skin and are more sensitive to external irritants and/or allergic substances and bacteria in the environment.
  • This all leads to dry skin, inflammation and infections.
  • In eczema, the skin is prone to developing infections. Infants often have a rash on their cheeks caused partially by a drool of saliva. It breaks down the skin proteins, leading to increased redness and, sometimes, it becomes difficult to control eczema on their cheeks.

Stress

  • While stress doesn’t cause eczema, symptoms may worsen as the result of tension, anger or frustration.
  • If your child is having problems at daycare, you may notice more eczema flare-ups than usual.
  • Stress also can cause habitual scratching, which perpetuates the itch-scratch cycle.
  • In that case, keep your child’s fingernails short and consider cotton gloves or mittens if your child tends to scratch while sleeping.

Animals

  • Few babies have sensitive skin. Avoid any animals that may make the rash worse.

Herpes virus infection (serious)

Genetics

  • Eczema can run in families. It is believed to be a genetic disorder resulting in sensitive skin. Often, someone else in the family also suffers from eczema, asthma or allergic rhinitis (hay fever).
  • Consult a dermatologist for the best possible treatment in such scenarios.

What is eczema?

Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is a common rash that occurs in people of all ages.

  • It is particularly common in children.
  • Eczema can start early, during the first few months of life.
  • The eczema rash is red, dry and itchy.
  • Some children grow out of it, whereas others can have sensitive skin and a rash for years.
  • Eczema tends to come and go and may get worse during certain times of the year, such as during the colder, drier winter months.

Symptoms

  • Eczema is a skin condition that usually appears as an itchy, red patch on the hands; feet; backs of elbows and around the knees, ankles and wrists.
  • It may also affect your baby’s cheeks, chin, chest, forehead or scalp.
  • Eczema can appear in other areas, too (the diaper area where moisture acts as a barrier).
  • Dry skin, sweating, pet dander or even dust can cause a flare-up of your child’s eczema.
  • Scratching also can make eczema worse, causing redness, swelling and other symptoms such as itching.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for eczema. It tends to come and go. Kids often outgrow some of their eczema, but they may continue to have rashes or sensitive skin for life.

  • When red, itchy rash is present, doctors often recommend anti-inflammatory medicines to help reduce active skin inflammation.
  • Topical steroid medications are the most effective treatment for eczema. If used properly under the direction of a dermatologist, topical steroids are safe to use.
  • Oral antihistamines may be prescribed to reduce itching.
  • If an infection is suspected, topical or oral antibiotics may be prescribed.
  • Good skincare, including bathing and moisturizing, is a key part of managing your child's eczema.

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Medically Reviewed on 3/25/2021
References
Medscape Medical Reference