Eczema is a condition in which the skin barrier function is damaged. This loss of barrier function makes the skin more sensitive and prone to infection and dryness. Atopic dermatitis, or eczema, is a common skin condition, affecting one in five children in Singapore, out of which, 60% of them develop eczema in their first year of life.
Baby eczema is characterized by dry, inflamed, and itchy skin, usually appearing on the cheeks, forehead, chin and scalp of infants within the first few months of their life. Baby eczema can also appear elsewhere on the body although less commonly around the diaper area.
You may also have come across another term "atopic dermatitis (AD)", which is another commonly used term for eczema.
When Enzo first developed a red patch on his cheek at around 4 months old, we thought it was "just a rash" and that it would go away by itself after awhile. We kept the rash area clean, and applied lotion to soothe the redness & dryness.
Before we knew it, his eczema had spread like wildfire, across his whole face and body.
What Causes Eczema?
The exact cause of eczema is still unknown. Causes of eczema can be attributed to the environment and/or an individual's genetics. There is a tendency for those with a family history of allergic conditions such as asthma and allergic rhinitis to develop eczema.
Common triggers of eczema (but not exhaustive) include:
Hot & humid weather (like in Singapore)
Irritants (rough fabrics, harsh detergent & soaps)
Allergens (e.g. dust, food allergies)
How To Cure Eczema
Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for eczema.
However, with the right treatment and care, you can keep eczema under control.
5 Tips To Help Baby / Children Cope With Eczema
Keep baby / little one dry (yes, many articles will discourage the use of air-con as it is "drying" and will dry out the skin, but in hot and humid Singapore, the air-con is a life-saver. Helps to keep baby / little ones cool and dry)
Cleanse & moisturize affected areas every 2-hourly (every hour if you can!)
Dress baby / little one in natural, light & breathable fabric (such as bamboo / organic cotton. You can read more about why bamboo is the best fabric for eczema-prone children)
Use mild, unscented soaps and/or bath oil for baths
Use mild, unscented detergents for laundry (Yes, even adults' laundry as baby will also be in contact with your clothes! We use a laundry egg, which uses mineral pellets instead of harsh chemicals for our laundry.)
Not very common advice but, a good and supportive childcare/school/family support system can make a whole lot of difference. (Let me elaborate more on this below.)
As Baby Enzo was attending childcare since he was 4 months old, it was especially important to find a school that could support our needs in terms of ensuring that Baby Enzo's eczema was kept under control.
Being clueless first-time parents, we had enrolled Baby Enzo into a school that was conveniently located near our workplace. It was an okay school - just that there wasn't a proper communication channel where we could reach the educarers or vice versa to keep us updated on allergy / eczema flare-ups during the 8 hours Enzo was in school. Also, I can't stress this enough - with eczema babies, it is important to cleanse and moisturize baby regularly, especially the eczema-affected areas (every 2 hourly if not every hour). As the months went by, even though we were doing the best we can at home in the mornings, evenings and weekends to keep him clean, dry and moisturized, Enzo's condition continued to deteriorate and in a short span of 2 months, had spread to the rest of his body.
On many occasions, we woke up in the morning with fresh blood on our sheets, and to find his face red, raw and bloodied from all the scratching in the middle of the night.
We made a decision to switch Enzo out just 4 months after being enrolled in his first school and have never looked back.
At his new school, the principal and the educarers were committed to helping us keep Enzo's eczema under control. We had a dedicated chat with the educarers and principal on the school app.
Within 4 months, we saw some improvements. And in 6 months, we could see light at the end of the tunnel.
So yes, finding a school that can support you in providing sufficient care for baby is very important, after all, baby spends 8 hours a day, 5 days a week in their care.
Today, we still struggle with Enzo's eczema flare-ups but it is easier to manage now.
The most important thing is to catch it and keep it under control when you see any first signs of eczema flare-ups instead of letting it develop into angry red patches.
(I'm lucky, or unlucky, as I also suffer from eczema flare-ups, especially during hot and humid months (like now!). So when my eczema starts, I'll also be extra cautious to monitor Enzo's eczema-prone areas so that we can catch it early.)
A few PDs and dermatologists that we have seen over the years have mentioned that some children do outgrow eczema, with it going away around 4 to 5 years old. Although Enzo's eczema issues have improved tremendously, we are still waiting for the day that he finally outgrows this condition. But until then, we just have to continue cleaning and moisturizing his eczema-prone areas and keeping him cool and dry in natural fabrics such as bamboo clothing.