Part 2 – Helping Eczema on the Outside
Firstly, know that you are not alone! Australia has one of the highest incidences of eczema world-wide and is most prevalent in children, with up to 90% developing symptoms by age five and 60% of these developing the condition in their first 12 months of life. However, despite how common the condition is, having an eczema baby is often an isolating time and finding a treatment for eczema in babies or toddlers is an exhausting journey for parents.
This two part series will help you tackle eczema from both inside and out, hopefully helping bring together the pieces of the puzzle for other families more quickly than it did for ours. Much of this information has been gleamed over the past three years with my own child’s eczema as well as through helping and also learning from many hundreds of customers seeking eczema solutions for their children.
Moisturise using a layering technique
There are great moisturisers out there more suitable for sensitive eczema skin than others, however the secret is not always what brand you use, but in how you use it.
The trick to allowing the best chance for moisturisers to work is to moisturise in layers, from prescription ones (if they are used), to thinner ones through to thicker ones. By doing this, moisture is not only added to the skin, but a barrier is also created trapping this moisture in for longer and nourishing and re-hydrating the skin.
It can be compared to thinking of skin like a brick wall. Without the mortar to keep it all together, it will crack and break, followed then by a protective barrier like sealant or paint to add further protection.
Moisturiser layering can be done with pharmaceutical brand creams or natural and organic equivalents.
Eliminate laundry irritants
Eczema babies or toddlers spend a lot of time either being bundled up in clothing, being wrapped up or in sleeping bags, laying on cot sheets or even being held against our own clothing. The simplest thing you can try to eliminate when you first notice your baby has eczema is to remove any potential laundry irritants and change to natural laundry options such as soap nuts (a natural tree nut, not real soap) or even eucalyptus oil instead. Many people worry that these won’t wash as well as other commercial detergents, but they often do better!
Eliminate bath time irritants
Soap products are notorious triggers for eczema in babies, often containing a multitude of ingredients harmful to sensitive skin. A baby will not suffer if they are only bathed in plain water and it is usually best to try this option for a while first to see if the eczema improves or not. Once it has improved you could then try adding small amounts of natural and gentler alternatives such as organic baby soaps, shampoos or goats milk soap which can still provide a nice bath time experience without the damage and drying.
Eliminate dust mites as much as possible
Dust mites are microscopic and feed on skin scales, so they love bedding, carpets, upholstered furniture, clothing, closets and even car seats. Therefore, keeping these areas as clean as possible and vacuuming as often as possible will help reduce their ability to cause irritation, but it is especially important to keep their favourite places – mattresses and bedding clean by ensuring all pillows, quilts and mattresses are enclosed with non-allergenic covers and that these and all bedding (including soft toys children sleep with) is washed in a hot wash of at least 60°C.
Ultraviolet light is also harmful to dust mites and so leaving a mattress and pillows out in the sun during warmer weather will also help.
Heat either from heaters during winter or during warm weather months is a common eczema trigger for babies. Using fans and keeping them cool however possible during hot weather can help reduce flare-ups. If out and about carry a face washer in a ziplock back with some iceblocks in it and use it to give your baby a quick wipe down and keep them a bit cooler and if you are home, given them a bath filled with cool water if they seem overly hot.
In winter, it can be helpful to use a vaporiser or humidifier in your baby’s room or in a room they spend a lot of time in, which can help prevent eczema flare-ups by counteracting the dry air produced by heaters.
Wet dressings and using Tubifast garments
Wet dressing or wet wrapping is used when usual prescription creams and moisturisers are not controlling an eczema flare-up. It is the process of applying wet linen bandages or specially designed Tubifast garments (tubular bandages made to fit over different body parts) over the top of prescription and/or moisturiser creams on the parts of the body affected by eczema.
The process of wet dressing is outlined in detail already at the Westmead Children’s Hospitals site by clicking this link
It can seem daunting at first but is extremely beneficial during acute flare-ups. The Tubifast garments specially designed for different areas of the body do make the process a lot simpler and easier, but also another useful trick is to use a cotton jumpsuit or top or pants (depending on where the eczema is located on the body) and wet this, using it as the wet dressing.
Dress in natural and breathable fabrics
Dressing your eczema baby or toddler in natural, breathable fabrics like 100% cotton or bamboo both naturally hypo-allergenic will not irritate already sensitive skin while also giving their skin optimal chance of healing and reduce flare-ups often caused by synthetic fabrics. Bamboo fabric is highly breathable, naturally antibacterial and also highly absorbent reducing abrasion from moisture, which makes it ideal for clothing and sleepwear for babies and toddlers.
Keep hands or feet covered to prevent further scratching damage
It might seem obvious to keep hands and feet as covered as you can at times when you can’t ‘supervise’ the scratching, but it is also one of the hardest things to achieve with an eczema baby or toddler who are notorious for their Houdini-like behaviour and finding ways to escape to relieve their itch by scratching!
Baby mittens, gloves or even socks over hands or arms usually only work on very small babies, but thankfully there are now ranges of specialist eczema clothing available in the form of tops with opening and closing mitten sleeves, mitten sleeves with opening or closed mittens that only cover arms, pants with enclosed feet or even specially designed swaddling wraps or baby sleeping bags to keep hands enclosed, minimising any damage that trying to scratch can cause.
By Kelly Northey
Kelly Northey is the designer of the Bamboo Bubby Bag™ a one size fits 000-2+ baby sleeping bag made from the softest blend of bamboo and organic cotton fabric, designed especially for eczema babies and toddlers. Its unique enclosed, adjustable sleeve will grow with your baby throughout their entire first 2-3 years, allowing delicate skin to heal naturally while also providing a goodnight’s sleep.
The Bamboo Bubby Bag™ and a new range of ScratchMeNot flip mitten sleeves are available for sale worldwide online at: www.bamboobubby.com.au
Kelly is always happy to talk more about eczema or Bamboo Bubby products on her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/bamboobubby.