Eczema in Infants – Causes, Signs & Home Remedies

Eczema in Babies – Reasons, Symptoms & Treatment

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Arti Sharma (Paediatrician)
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Baby skin is extremely delicate, and it is susceptible to infections and damage. One common skin condition, eczema, can affect babies at a very young age. However, before dwelling further on the subject, it is important to understand what eczema actually is. Eczema is attributed to dry skin and rashes, which can cause a lot of itchiness. Put simply, it is a skin rash.

Video: Baby Eczema – Causes, Signs and Treatment

Conflicting opinions regarding the causes are argued upon, where on one hand, it could be due to allergies, and on the other, it may be genetic. It is so common that it has been given various names such as dermatitis, atopic eczema, or atopic dermatitis.

Various studies show that the incidence of contracting eczema is higher in children who are below five years of age. However, it has now been established that apart from the genetic angle, eczema is a combination of dry skin and allergies.

What Is Baby Eczema?

To understand why eczema occurs, we must understand what causes this skin condition. Most babies who develop these disorders are medically termed as having atopic dermatitis. Atopic means that the baby has genetically acquired the tendency to develop eczema, asthma or hay fever, and dermatitis means inflammation.

Babies are prone to this skin disorder during their first year. However, there is every possibility that they may outgrow it. The inherent aspect of this malady is the fact that the skin pores have poor ability to prevent the skin from becoming dry. Consequently, the skin becomes prone to infection. The infection is visible in terms of patches that are noticeable on the scalp, face, legs, or back of the arm. Eczema cannot be cured, but it can be controlled through treatment.

Causes of Baby Eczema

Researchers are still in debate as to what the cause of eczema is. Here are some of the possible causes:

1. Genetics

Genetics and immune system dysfunction could be a factor contributing to baby eczema. Difficulties with the permeability of the skin and environmental exposures are causes which could cause such skin irritation.

2. Related Diseases

The risk is higher if parents have a case history of asthma or hay fever. This gives rise to the theory that other diseases increase the likelihood of a person being prone to eczema.

3. Allergies

It is a well-known fact that eczema is a combination of dry skin and allergies. The early symptoms of eczema in babies can be noticed by their skin being dry and rashes appearing and spreading on the face, legs, or arms. Such allergies could be transferred through breastfeeding, where the mother’s dietary habits could be responsible.

Eczema mainly affects the baby’s skin through flare-ups, during which the dry and itchy parts of the skin get aggravated. This can also occur when the baby’s immune system overreacts to certain allergens. During such times, it is important to notice the signs that are being exhibited.

Signs of Eczema in Babies

The initial observation will depend on the child’s age. The starting signs are patches on the face owing to the skin being dry, and this could be a cause of irritation to the baby. The flare-up in rashes with oozing blisters with inflammation could be another indication.

Dry skin or hard skin formation due to excessive scratching could also be a cause of eczema. The intensity of the rashes could be noticed if there is bleeding in the affected area. Only tests will reveal whether it is due to genetics, or is a case of an allergy. It is generally believed that babies outgrow these on reaching adolescence. A few of the symptoms can be easily identified on the baby

Signs of Eczema in Babies

Some of the signs that a baby is suffering from eczema include:

1. Blisters on Skin

The baby’s skin begins exhibiting blisters that are visibly flared up on the skin and are rough.

2. Skin Oozing Out Yellow Fluids

The yellow fluids are accumulated under the surface of the dry skin and begin oozing out when they get severe.

3. Reddening and Itching of Skin

Due to the constant itching and scratching, the skin begins turning red in colour.

4. Appearance of Pus Spots

Blood not being able to flow turns to pus in some parts of the skin, and start hurting the baby.

5. Flu-like Symptoms

Since eczema affects the immune system to an extent, the baby starts exhibiting flu-like symptoms, including coughing, sneezing, and a rise in body temperature.

If any of these are noticed, then treatment should commence without any time lapse. Consulting a doctor in extreme cases is also recommended.

Baby Eczema Treatment

  • A careful examination by a skin specialist could make the treatment easier. They physically examine the rashes, and analyse your baby’s detailed medical history so as to ascertain whether he has had any ailments which could give rise to these rashes. Initially, they may advise mild lotions which can control eczema.
  • They may also advise the regular application of low-steroid creams. Depending on the results obtained, they may perform a patch test to find and ascertain the cause of allergies. The good news is that the disease can be controlled, as it is not contagious.
  • Medicines and therapies are prescribed to control itching, reduce inflammation, prevent new lesions from forming, and clear up the infection. The most crucial part of this process is to keep the baby’s skin moisturised.

Home Remedies

Therapeutic treatment, apart from the ones above, include baby eczema natural remedies which can be tried at home:

  • It is essential to have a clean, bright, dry, and cool atmosphere in the house. If necessary, a humidifier can be installed, as it will prevent the skin from drying.
  • Soaps and detergents should be avoided while bathing the baby or washing his clothes, because they can cause flare-ups if the baby is allergic. Immediately after the bath, a moisturising cream can be applied to the skin.
  • Creams with a very low percentage of cortisone are available over the counter at pharmaceutical outlets. Tight fitting clothes, as well as clothes made from synthetics, should be avoided.
  • Olive oil is a safe substitute for application over the affected areas. Pure aloe vera oil applied gently will cool the itching area, and give symptomatic relief. Most of these oils contain omega-3 fatty acids, which improve the condition of the skin and curb the symptoms of eczema.

Home Remedies

Treatment for Permanent Eczema Rash

The treatment for eczema rash depends on how severe the rash is. If the rashes have been spotted early, then preventive action by applying lotions to suppress the itching can be recommended. It is essential to ensure that the rash doesn’t dry up, otherwise the itching will result in flaking up the rash because of excessive friction.

  • To prevent the rash from drying, it is incumbent on the parents to ensure that lotions are applied frequently. It is always better to try out one brand of lotion, and stick to the brand which suits your child best.
  • There are a few doctors who may prescribe anti-histamines (anti-allergic tablets or liquids) to induce sleep as the child may have discomfort due to itching. However, these are remedies to give symptomatic relief, and don’t address the root of the problem.
  • Another treatment method that can be followed is bathing the child in lukewarm or cold water. This is because hot water could dry the skin faster. Once the child is done bathing, you can apply a moisturizer on the damp skin, because then it will get absorbed faster. You can then proceed to dress the child in light clothes made of cotton. Avoid wool or thicker material because they can raise the body temperature and be very uncomfortable.
  • Try to pay attention to your toddler whenever he is scratching. It is important that he does not aggravate the pain by scratching his skin.
  • If there are any flare-ups, using cooling compressors can reduce the spread faster.
  • Also, giving your baby a bath 5 to 10 times in diluted bleached water can be very effective in fighting cases of extreme eczema. Mix two tablespoons of bleach per gallon of water and soak the child in it. Make sure that he does not drink the water and it is disposed of immediately after the bath. Rinse off properly to avoid the smell of bleach from sticking on.

Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema) and Allergenic Foods

There is conflicting opinion regarding food allergy as being the cause of atopic dermatitis. The opinions are debatable, but researchers have been vociferous in their support for breastfeeding for six months, as it has been known to give positive results. There is also consensus on the fact that food allergies trigger symptoms in younger children, and environmental hazards could be the cause symptoms in older children.

There is also unanimity in the fact that food allergy and atopic dermatitis are inter-related. Several studies conducted have shown that certain food ingested by children cause inflammation, which include foods like processed and fast foods. Some items of food are responsible for aggravating infection in younger children, though they have a tendency of outgrowing the allergy over time. It is always advisable as a routine precaution to obtain an allergy evaluation test.

Clinical diagnosis with pathological documentation will point to the relation between symptoms and a food item. To be more precise, the ingestion of an item can produce a symptom which can be observed. A process of trial and error should be conducted to help in identifying the allergy-causing food.

How to Prevent Eczema in Babies

Baby eczema needs to be treated for dry skin and inflammation. As already stated, if this is due to genetic causes, it cannot be prevented. The symptoms may start showing a year after the child’s birth. It can certainly be prevented from aggravation by administering therapies as suggested by the specialist. It would be beneficial to maintain a record (for the benefit of the doctor) as to what causes such allergies in your baby.

How to Prevent Eczema in Babies

Here are a few ways to prevent eczema:

  • The diet of the child could be a reason that may be causing the eczema, but it is advisable that any change in the child’s diet is done after due consultation with the doctor. A clean and dust-free atmosphere at home would be an ideal situation for prevention, though this might be a little difficult.
  • Avoid synthetic material clothing, as the best preferred material for kids is always cotton. This is because wool can scratch against the skin and aggravate the dryness.
  • Immediate treatment once the rash is noticed can help to control it. Use of topical creams, as well as external use of steroids, are some good alternatives, as they reduce inflammation of the disease. They are anti-inflammatory agent,s and they should be used based on the advice of a child specialist. This reduces eczema without causing any harm to the skin.
  • Sometimes, eczema can be caused by allergens, so identifying these environmental allergens and getting them checked by an allergist could also help.


Some of the many questions about eczema include:

1. Is Gender a Risk Factor of Eczema?

A study conducted by the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm discovered that pre-adolescent girls are more susceptible than boys to eczema.

2. What is the Cause of Eczema Flaring Up?

There is considerable debate as to what the exact cause is. While there are many who say it is genetics, there are others who believe allergies and environmental factors have a role to play.

3. Is It Contagious?

No, as it is related to inflammation, it cannot be passed on to another individual by contact or otherwise.

4. What If Eczema Turns Infected?

It is very important to know the difference between a rash and infected eczema. Eczema becomes infected when fungi get into the damaged skin. Incessant scratching could enhance the severity of the infection. This can also worsen the rash and exacerbate the infection.

Eczema warrants prompt attention, and the process can be evaluated depending on the severity of the infection. A dermatologist can help reduce the severity of the infection and reduce its duration. He will medicate and provide therapy to prevent the infection from spreading to other parts of the body. It has been observed that bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus is the main cause of flare-ups.

Due to its presence around the wound, it enters the rash when the patient scratches the affected area. For such occurrences, topical steroids and anti-bacterial ointments are prescribed. Depending on the extent of severity, oral steroids may also be given to provide relief.

5. Is Use of Steroids Harmful to My Baby?

Medication should be within the prescribed limits. What can be cured by a paracetamol should not be cured by antibiotics, and where antibiotics can do the job, steroids should never be administered. Nevertheless, the use of oral steroid therapies should be administered based on the advice of your child specialist.

Topical steroids are harmless once they are prescribed with the correct strength. It is advisable not to take the onus of medication by references, as a self-prescribed strong dosage and strength can cause irreparable damage to the tender skin of the baby. This could be harmful in the long run, as the effect of the steroid, when needed, will not provide the desired result.

Though the exact cause of eczema is not known, there are appropriate methods through which the disease can be controlled. As it can spread to other parts of the body, early action can help reduce the discomfort that is felt by the baby.

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