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Eczema Awareness Month: The Survival Guide for Parents

Fall is finally here. In the business world, October signifies the start of the fourth quarter. Some people associate it with Halloween, and yet others think of the beautiful foliage in certain parts of the country. October and the Fall season have a variety of meanings depending on who gets asked.

About 15 million Americans find an entirely different meaning to the month of October. To these people, October represents Eczema Awareness Month.

Eczema is a dry skin condition that develops at a young age. When a person with eczema experiences a flare-up, their skin becomes red, inflamed, bumpy, and itchy. Although it is generally considered a mild skin condition, it can be incredibly uncomfortable to those who experience these symptoms.

A significant proportion of the population that is exposed to eczema cannot yet voice their concerns to others. The demographic most likely to have eczema are babies. Between 10 and 20 percent of infants have this skin condition. Some outgrow it over time, but this is something that many parents will encounter.

In an effort to raise awareness and mitigate the impact on infants, this article will outline actions that parents can take to combat eczema.

Any parent with an infant knows that bath time can be quite an adventure. Add eczema to the mix and it becomes even more challenging. There are precautions parents can take to improve this experience for themselves and their babies.

Since eczema is a dry skin condition, it is important to understand what to do and what not to do during bath time. Certain actions when bathing can actually increase triggers that lead to flare-ups. On the flip side, moisture retaining techniques can soothe the skin and create comfort. 

According to the National Eczema Association, babies should ideally take one bath per day. This will give the baby moisture from the water without overdoing it–too many baths can actually dry out the skin. Instead, give shorter baths to retain moisture. The 5 to 10 minute range will ensure that babies maintain natural oils that fend off allergens that lead to dry skin. The other trigger for eczema flare-ups is hot water, which actually removes the natural oils that are important for skin protection. Hot baths may be soothing and relaxing for adults, but parents should use lukewarm water for bathing their babies.

As previously noted, babies with eczema have difficulty retaining moisture. For this reason it is critical that parents find additional ways to increase moisture during and after bathing. Rest assured, there are products designed specifically for babies with eczema. Many of these shampoos and soaps include natural ingredients that serve to hold moisture from bathing. Look for shea butter, hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and lanolin in bathing and moisturizing products. Oatmeal is another ingredient that can help babies with eczema due to its ability to reduce or make itching subside.

There are also ways to help babies with eczema keep their skin hydrated after bathing. Parents can use towels to pat the baby, leaving some dampness. While the baby is slightly wet, parents can apply moisturizer to fight against dry skin. Combined, this helps coat the skin and adds a layer of defense against dryness.

Similarly, wet wrap therapy can be used to reduce itching while maintaining hydration. Wet wrap therapy is exactly what it sounds like. The best way to incorporate this is right before bed. At this time, parents can moisten clothing or a gauze pad which is then placed around the affected areas. Keeping eczema prone areas moistened will increase comfort while decreasing irritation.

Another unwanted side-effect of eczema is difficulty sleeping. According to the National Eczema Association, about 83 percent of children with eczema face challenges trying to get rest. Babies experiencing eczema flare-ups can be especially irritable due to discomfort and itching. This can lead to irregular sleeping patterns or a lack of sleep in general.

One of the main culprits contributing to nighttime eczema discomfort is sweat. Babies with eczema can become extremely irritated by this and will react by itching. As a preventative measure, parents can control the bedroom temperature. Maintaining a cooler (65 degrees fahrenheit or so) climate can help with this.

The types of fabrics a baby wears or is in contact with can alter their sleep experience. Parents should avoid anything tight because this will rub against the skin, irritating it. When it comes to clothing material, natural is also better–avoid any synthetics. Lastly, materials such as wool are uncomfortable for babies with eczema because it creates warmth, which leads to sweat and further discomfort. 

Instead, parents should purchase clothes that are looser fitting and have less irritative qualities. Cotton is very common in clothing and tends to be very breathable, decreasing the likelihood of rubbing against the skin or causing overheating. Another great material for babies with eczema is bamboo. Not only is bamboo lighter, it has the ability to soak up unwanted moisture from sweating while being softer to touch. In general most lighter and natural fabrics are best for babies with eczema. Controlling both climate and the baby’s attire can increase comfort while minimizing itching. 

Along with the measures taken to mitigate the impact of eczema, there is one proactive tactic that has even greater long term impacts. It has nothing to do with skincare and everything to do with what a baby eats. Diet is perhaps the most important factor contributing to a baby with eczema’s health and well-being throughout life.

Babies with eczema are significantly more likely to develop food allergies than those without eczema. In fact, up to 67 percent of babies with eczema will go on to have food allergies. Given these statistics, parents may be inclined to avoid common foods that lead to allergies.

This is not the answer. 

Instead, parents need to introduce their babies to common allergens. There are a wide variety of foods that people are allergic to, but 90 percent of all allergies come from the top 8. In general, most food allergies stem from:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts such as almonds, wal­nuts, and pecans
  • Soybeans
  • Wheat
  • Fish
  • Shellfish such as crab, lobster, and shrimp

Little can be done for certain food allergies such as shellfish which generally develop into lifelong allergies. Then there are some foods such as milk (lactose intolerance) that are more likely to be outgrown than others. Targeting select foods to introduce to babies can help prevent up to 80 percent of allergies.

Upwards of 1,000 medical professionals endorse an all encompassing solution. Ready, Set, Food provides exposure to allergens with just 3 key ingredients (Egg, Milk, and Peanut). This product follows a gradual progression, introducing just one allergen at a time. During the first 4 days, a baby will eat products with cow milk. Overtime egg white gets added, followed by peanut. The reason this is so effective is because it covers many of the common food allergens in a safe, controlled, and methodical manner.

Given the fact that babies with eczema are the most at risk population for developing food allergies, it is highly recommended that parents integrate these allergens into their baby’s diet. Ultimately, these have the greatest impact on a baby’s quality of life because exposure is proven to reduce the chances of developing a food allergy. 

Ready, Set, Food! Is also proud to partner with Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) to launch an education program on food allergy prevention, developed by Ready, Set, Food!’s team of leading pediatricians and allergists. This partnership will help to educate and bring awareness to parents that through early allergen introduction, they can significantly reduce their baby’s risk of developing food allergies.

In general, babies should be introduced to these allergenic foods as soon as they can eat solids. Recent adjustments to the USDA’s findings suggest that 4 month olds should be introduced to peanuts and eggs. A good way to tell if a baby can eat solid foods is when they are able to hold their head up and let you know that they are full by turning their heads away from food. 

When a baby is ready to transition their eating, start with semi-solid foods. One way to introduce peanuts to babies is to make a puree that blends some of the common allergen (such as peanut butter) into a puree. This is more manageable for a baby to eat because it is less of a choking hazard. 

Offer a small sample of the recipe to start and build this up over time. As a baby is exposed to the same allergen repeatedly, it reduces the chances that they will develop an allergy to that food. If for any reason there is an allergic reaction, immediately stop and consult with a pediatrician. For precautionary purposes, it is also recommended that only 1 allergen at a time be introduced. That way, a parent can narrow the cause of a reaction to a given food in the event that it occurs. 

Since babies with eczema are already at high risk of developing food allergies, they should take proactive measures to reduce the odds. Early introduction to allergenic foods has the ability to change a baby’s entire future.

By understanding what to do for babies with eczema, the hope is that they can live a happy and healthy life. 

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