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What is infantile eczema?

When red plaques appear on the body and face of their baby, parents become very concerned and ask a lot of questions: What is it? What causes eczema? What can I do to soothe my child? The parents ask their friends and family and look for answers on the internet; everyone has an opinion and a suggestion to make, and this only adds to their stress. Our advice for a better understanding of infantile eczema:

Eczema in babies and children: the areas most often affected

Infantile eczema most commonly presents as atopic eczema: a type of eczema that is transmitted genetically and is characterized by a loss of the skin's protective barrier function.

Plaques do not appear just anywhere: in children under 2 years old, lesions are predominantly found on the cheeks, the outside of the arms and legs and on the torso; from 2 years and over, lesions occur in the skin folds, whether on the larger folds (knees, elbows, neck, etc.) or the smaller ones (lips, eyelids, ears, etc.).

Children with atopic eczema also sometimes present with contact eczema, where they develops skin allergies to a given substance.

When should you consult a physician about your baby's eczema?

Upheaval is caused to the whole family when a baby with eczema is covered with red plaques. The baby cries a lot, is grumpy and wriggles around to rub the skin and scratch it: the parents have no idea what to do or who to believe, they cannot sleep, they start to replace everything in the house, they seriously consider switching to a new kind of milk ...

Stop! The first thing to do is to consult a physician: a general practitioner, a pediatrician or a dermatologist, depending on the specific case. Going to see an allergist immediately is pointless, since eczema is not, strictly speaking, an allergy-related disease. The physician will make the eczema diagnosis and prescribe the initial treatment, in most cases, topical corticosteroids to target the inflammation and emollients to hydrate and strengthen the skin.

At home, the parents' role is very hands-on as they must correctly apply the treatment every day. In particular, they should not be afraid to apply certain creams, as they are there to soothe their child, not harm them! Topical corticosteroids especially have been used in dermatology for over 70 years; adverse effects such as thinning of the skin, acne, pigmentation disorders and delayed healing, etc. are very rare for the doses used in eczema treatment.

Parents must also be aware that anti-inflammatory treatments must be readministered before a new flare-up, and they must pay attention to any possible changes to lesions or those that persist: if this does occur, they should make an appointment to see their physician.

What soap should be used for babies with eczema?

Cleansing is an essential step in treating babies with eczema. Cleansing products must not be too harsh, because eczema is not a dirty or contagious disease. A physician or pharmacist can advise you on which cleansing product to choose.

Traditional soaps, (Marseille or Aleppo soap, etc.), are made from natural products and are do not contain preservatives, colorants or fragrances. On the face of it, these soaps may be beneficial if skin is hypersensitive or if patients are "allergic to everything", but they tend to dry out the skin and destroy the hydrolipidic film (protective film on the skin's surface).

Ideally, traditional soaps should be replaced with ultra-rich soaps, syndets ("soap-free soap") or cleansing oils that do not contain any allergens or irritants, to limit the risk of sensitization and allergic skin reactions.

Preferably, showers should not last too long, be too hot or too frequent. Cleansing should be done by hand, without rubbing the skin. The child should then be dried gently with a cotton or microfiber towel. Skin should not be rubbed but gently patted dry.

Eczema in babies: what habits should you adopt?

When adapting the environment for babies with eczema, there is only one thing to keep in mind: common sense! There is no single thing that all patients are prohibited from doing, or that they must do, and there is no single solution that can cure the disease simply and completely. If your little boy is very happy playing on a mat shaped like a car race track, you don't have to take it away, it is better to give it a good shake and to vacuum it regularly.

Likewise, if a baby normally drinks milk without experiencing digestive problems, it may be counterproductive to switch to a different type, as this could disrupt their routine. A general life balance is more important than anything else.

Points to remember

Infantile eczema can cause complete upheaval in the lives of a young family. The parent's role is hands-on as they must apply the treatment and soothe their child. They should not feel guilty, or change all the products in the house!

However, it is necessary to make minor changes to tailor the environment to their baby. This will not completely cure the eczema, but it will reduce the risk of flare-ups.