Tips & Advice That Work For Baby Eczema

Baby Eczema Back PlaquesBaby Face Eczema

We received a lot of infant eczema advice from friends and family. When we told them about our son’s eczema almost everyone seemed to know someone who had a child with eczema and they all recommended different things. So we got a lot of advice and spent a lot of time doing trial-and-error to see if something would work. My advice to anyone else would be to not worry about testing all these different products and remedies just yet and try using a very greasy ointment like Vaniply all over your child once a day at bedtime, and add a medium-potency steroid ointment as needed and see if that takes care of it. Then you can go back and try other things if that doesn’t work. (Read the full story of how we found out about Vaniply here: Vaniply For Baby Eczema.) We would have saved a lot of time and money had we just done that in the first place. But if that’s not helping as well as you’d like, here are some other things that we felt definitely helped:
  • Control home humidity. Our drafty old house had very low humidity during the winter months. We used a large console humidifier that I was refilling daily to keep the humidity as high as possible in the upstairs part of the house over the winter months. Besides the noise of the console humidifier fan running all the time I was tediously filling bucket after bucket with water and chemical scale treatments every day to keep the tank topped off. Last year we finally installed a whole-house humidifier that attaches to our forced-air furnace and regulates the home humidity automatically. We know that effective air sealing would be a better option, but it’s just not feasible in our current home so we opted for the furnace-mounted humidifier. While a whole-house humidifier is more expensive to purchase and operate, the convenience is very much worth it to our family. I haven’t missed filling up the water buckets one bit. And our son’s skin has been much better this year. We don’t know for sure if that’s due to using the Vaniply all the time or him growing older and his skin changing, but having more humidity in the home seems to have a positive impact on his worst spots.
  • Apply creams or ointments immediately after bathtime. Another great tip was to apply Vaniply immediately after giving our son a bath, within a few minutes of drying him off or even while he was still a little damp. This really did seem to lock in moisture and help him recover from being washed. He was usually so happy to not be itchy he would go right to sleep afterwards (or maybe it was just the bath itself causing him to feel content). We also didn’t give him a bath all that often, maybe twice a week all winter. (We have been using a very gentle Cetaphil cleanser as his bathtime soap without his eczema acting up.)
  • Focus on the torso. Maybe this depends on what specific type of eczema your baby has, but our son’s worst areas were always on his torso. He would get scaly patches on his legs and arms but he only got the oozy, scabby plaques on his back and tummy. So we consistently slathered him up with ointments in that area of his body. Today we rarely apply Vaniply to his whole body, instead we only put it on his tummy, sides, shoulders and back.
  • Plastic wrap helps topical steroids work better. The pediatric dermatologist told us about this one. When a plaque spot is oozing badly and not responding to the steroid ointments, apply a square “bandage” of clear plastic wrap (like Cling Wrap or Saran Wrap) over it to keep the ointment in contact with skin. Similar to a band-aid or transparent wound dressing, this prevents the ointment from rubbing off on clothes and seals moisture in the area. We didn’t think this would actually work, but it did help clear up some stubborn plaques. Also we only used this at bedtime, without any tape or anything to hold the plastic wrap in place, and usually it was still in the right spot by morning. The ointment must help keep it in place.

And here are some things that we felt didn’t help:
  • Controlling/eliminating foods. In our case our son was breastfeeding for his first eczema flare-up and eventually switched to table foods over the course of several months. So my wife tried not eating certain foods and food groups to see if that would help, and later we were worried about a possible link between food allergies and eczema so we introduced table foods very cautiously. But all that trial-and-error with food didn’t have any effect on his eczema.
  •  Probiotics. We used an expensive probiotic called Florajen 4 Kids that has to be kept in the fridge because it has live cultures. We gave our son one capsule a day for over a month. It didn’t do any harm, but we couldn’t detect any change in his eczema from using it. It did seem to make his stools less soft and almost completely eliminated diaper blowouts for us. Not sure if that was a fluke but since using it he hardly ever has had loose stools.
  •  Antibiotics. When our son got a typical 6-month old ear infection the pediatrician prescribed amoxicillin and later cefdinir (a cephalosporin) antibiotics and told us to watch the eczema plaques closely to see if there was any change. He did say this was unlikely to have any effect but it could affect the bacteria on the skin. No change was observed.
  •  Antibiotic and antifungal topical creams. Neosporin ointment (bacitracin, neomycin and polymycin B) and Lorimin antifungal cream (clotrimazole) were suggested in case the plaques were caused by a fungal or bacterial infection of the skin. After a week of testing individually and then as a pair (we mixed them together in the palm of our hand) there was no change.
  •  Coconut, mineral and olive oils. These were mostly suggested anecdotally by friends and family, not a doctor, but it seemed plausible that they might have a positive effect on keeping our son’s skin moisturized. Although we didn’t do any long-term testing, we didn’t see any results from applying them to the scaly plaques a few times. Using the oils was far messier than using the creams and basically guaranteed a stain on our son’s clothing, so we didn’t pursue this very long.
  •  Colloidal oatmeal creams. We bought a big bottle of Aveeno Baby Eczema cream for home, another one for the diaper bag and more tubes for daycare and applied it generously at every diaper change. The Aveeno product soaked in quickly and smelled nice, but it didn’t really help our son’s eczema. Our pediatrician said the colloidal oatmeal was supposed to help sensitive skin, but I think there is probably so little of it in any of the Aveeno products that it has minimal effect compared with the other ingredients. By the next diaper change our son’s skin would feel just as dry. I’ll also mention that we ground up rolled oats in a blender to make oatmeal baths which did seem to have a soothing effect on the itching, but did not have any effect on the plaques. It was also a pretty big mess to wash out of the tub every time.

So there you have it, a few ideas that actually worked for us and some that definitely did not. Hopefully someone can learn from our experiences. If you are the parent of a child with eczema, I would advise you to simply start with one application of a heavy, greasy ointment product like Vaniply each day and go from there. For our infant son, we normally saw his pediatrician at his regular well-child check-ups so we usually changed his treatment plan regularly to see if something different would work or not. So don’t hesitate to contact your pediatrician or provider and let them know you want to try something else, they might have access to new research (or different types of steroids) that can really help. And most importantly, don’t give up! Our son’s eczema is now well-controlled and he hasn’t had a flare-up in months. So there is hope that someday he will simply outgrow it.

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