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Babies have sensitive skin and their immune systems are still developing, which makes them susceptible to various allergies and infections. A slight irritation to your baby’s skin can trigger a rash and make him cranky and irritated. We know you want to keep your baby safe but skin allergies are common in babies and toddlers, and the best thing you can do is to be aware of them. Some skin allergies are more common than others and knowing more about these can prove handy. So read on to know about different types of skin allergies and how you can treat them.
What Is a Skin Allergy?
A skin allergy is a hypersensitivity reaction of the immune system to an allergen such as pollen, dander, dust etc. This leads to release of inflammatory mediators such as histamine, serotonin, bradykinin which leads to an inflammatory reaction. The allergy then manifests as a skin rash. Skin allergies are more common in infants with sensitive skin. Even irritants such as a dirty diaper, drool, food, soaps, and detergents can cause allergic reactions in children.
Common Skin Allergies in Babies
Skin allergies and rashes are common in babies and require little to no medication or treatment. Most skin problems resolve with time, but if they don’t, you might have to take your little one to a paediatrician. Mentioned below are some common skin allergies that affect babies:
1. Atopic Eczema
Atopic Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition that can develop in a baby after the age of 2 months. Eczema is characterised by red itchy rashes that may consist of tiny red bumps.
Genetics is one cause of eczema but wearing certain kinds of clothes and soap can trigger it too. Sometimes, food allergies and environmental pollutants like dust and smoke can also cause eczema. Accumulation of sweat in warm weather and extremely cold weather can also be responsible for this condition.
Eczema might be localised or appear all over the body. It is characterised by a red itchy rash over cheeks, neck, body folds. Chronic scratching leads to thick hyperpigmentation.
If your baby develops this skin condition, bathe him well. Use a mild skin-cleanser that is fragrance-free and is prescribed by a paediatrician or dermatologist. Do not buy over-the-counter ointment. If the condition is severe, check with your dermatologist for proper diagnosis and treatment.
2. Papular Urticaria or Bug Bites
This rash is commonly seen in exposed areas such as the hands, face, and neck. It is quite common in babies and can lead to hives all over the body, giving you the impression that there are a lot of insect bites though it might be just one. Although it usually affects children between 2 and 6 years of age, it can also occur in infants.
Papular urticaria is an allergic reaction to insect bites. Fleas found on pet cats is the main cause of this allergy. However, bites from various insects like bird mites, bedbugs, mosquitoes, gnats, caterpillars, and carpet beetles can also cause this rash to appear.
It starts out as a rash that appears to be a small bump on the skin, which then turns a reddish-brown shade. These bumps can be quite itchy.
As this is a common skin allergy, a topical steroid cream is usually suggested for relief from the itching. An anti-histamine might also provide relief and should be given at night. In case the rashes get infected, an antibiotic cream may be prescribed by your child’s doctor.
3. Miliaria or Heat Rash
Heat rash (sweat rash or prickly heat), is commonly seen on baby’s face, neck, back, underarms, or bottom. It is a skin rash that appears when the skin gets too warm. Babies with sensitive skin and who live in warm weather are especially prone to this.
The main cause of heat rash is the accumulation of sweat under the skin. As babies have smaller sweat glands, their bodies lack the ability to regulate body temperature, thus making them prone to heat rash. If you make your baby wear tight clothes or even strap him into a car seat for a long trip in humid weather, it can lead to an onset of this rash.
It appears as tiny red bumps or blisters filled with pus as a result of the sweat ducts being blocked.
It usually resolves on its own and no specific treatment is required. But if your baby has heat rash, make him wear comfortable clothes – this will help speed up the healing process.
Hives are transient evanescent dermal oedema and can either disappear within a few hours or last for a few weeks. They can range in size and shape and can develop anywhere on the body.
Hives develop when the body’s immune system produces the chemical histamine in response to viral infections, insect bites, certain types of food, or sudden changes in the temperature. Your baby might feel an itchy or burning sensation when hives appear.
If your baby gets reddish, swollen botches on any part of the body, especially when accompanied by the cold or flu, following an insect bite, after eating peanuts, eggs, or seafood, or after a significant temperature variation, then it is likely to be hives.
An anti-histamine medication can provide some quick relief to your baby. If it happens frequently, your doctor might ask you to note down every detail of your child’s day to find out what triggers the reaction. Further blood and urine tests may also be suggested to determine the cause.
Often seen in chubby babies, this rash appears in the folds of the skin with the neck being the most common spot. As this skin allergy develops, skin-to-skin friction can cause some pain.
This rash is seen when excessive moisture such as that from drool and spit collects in the creases of the baby’s skin. Since these parts of the skin are not exposed to air, there is little chance for the moisture to dry up making your baby vulnerable to infection.
It looks red or reddish-brown. It is likely to be itchy and may give out a foul odour while the skin might be crusty or cracked.
You must wash and clean the folds of the baby’s skin with water and dry it well. Then apply petroleum jelly or a zinc oxide barrier cream to speed up the healing process. A topical steroid may be prescribed in severe cases as also oral medication.
Tips to Prevent Skin Allergies in Infants
Most of the common newborn baby skin problems can be prevented by taking some simple precautions. Keeping baby’s skin clean and moisturized plays an important part in this. Here are some things you can do to prevent skin allergies:
Do not use soap while bathing your baby daily. Soap has a drying effect and it can leave your baby’s skin flaky, depriving it of its natural oils if used frequently.
Moisturize your baby’s skin using a mild cream after bathing him every time.
Keep your baby away from insects and bugs. You can use nets on the windows of your home to keep insects away and dress your baby in pants and long sleeves when going out, particularly if visiting parks or open spaces.
Dress your baby in layers so that you are able to take off your baby’s clothes if it gets warm and thus, prevent sweating.
Be sure to check the ingredients in the food that you give to your baby to guard against food allergens. This way, you will be able to avoid many of the usual food allergens, if not all.
Keep the temperature of your baby’s room comfortable. It should be neither too hot nor too cold.
If anyone in your family has a skin allergy of any kind, keep the baby away from them to prevent direct contact.
Dress your baby in soft, cotton fabric all the time. Clothes made from synthetic materials can be itchy and rough besides being a source of allergens.
When to Consult a Doctor
As mentioned above, most skin problems resolve with time and can be treated at home too. However, in some cases, consulting a doctor becomes necessary. If your baby develops a skin allergy and the rashes worsen over time, you should take him to a paediatrician. Sometimes, a rash can also signify some illness – in this case, immediate medical attention is required. If your baby has a fever, is crying continuously, or is lethargic, you should consult a doctor.
A good deal of patience is required when dealing with skin allergies in babies. Prevention is the key when it comes to skin allergies. Try to keep your baby safe from skin allergies by maintaining good hygiene and keeping your baby’s skin clean and dry as much as possible.