Free Shipping on all orders $40+

Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is a common skin problem that can affect newborns, babies, children, and adults. Symptoms include dry, red, itchy skin that can flare up in the presence of a number of allergens and environmental factors.

In babies, eczema flare-ups can first appear between birth and three months. With the right treatment, those flare-ups will eventually disappear, but the potential for future flare-ups will always remain. For children, then, prevention is the key to keeping these uncomfortable dry, itchy patches at bay.

But what exactly is eczema? What causes flare-ups to occur? And what is the difference between baby, child, and adult eczema? The experts at Mustela will answer all those questions and give you seven steps to treat and prevent your child’s eczema flare-ups.

 Two kids doing headstands on the grass

What Is Childhood Eczema?

Eczema is a genetic condition that causes the hydrolipidic layer that covers your child’s skin to become thin in certain spots and eventually break down. This protective layer does two things:

  • It prevents moisture from evaporating.
  • It protects skin from external irritation.

So when a small hole in the hydrolipidic layer develops, it allows moisture to escape and allergens to come in contact with the deeper layers of your child’s skin. When that happens, a flare-up is likely to occur, causing your child’s skin to become red, swollen, and itchy.

What Causes Eczema Flare-Ups?

The main causes of child eczema flare-ups include:

  • Dry skin
  • Environmental allergies
  • High temperature
  • Pollution
  • Pet dander
  • Tight or abrasive clothing
  • Too much bathing

 young baby snuggling with a cat

Even though there are many factors that can lead to an eczema flare-up, treatment is simple and effective, regardless of what caused the reaction in the first place. Before we discuss the seven ways to treat and prevent child eczema flare-ups, let’s find out a bit more about the condition itself.

Is There A Cure For Childhood Eczema?

Eczema is a genetic condition, much like dust or food allergies. That means there is no cure. You can treat the symptoms (red, itchy patches), but the condition will never go away completely. As your child gets older, though, their skin will mature and their hydrolipidic layer will thicken, thus reducing the likelihood that a flare-up will occur.

The Difference Between Baby And Child Eczema

The primary difference between baby eczema and child eczema is where the flare-up occurs. The flare-up itself will look roughly the same—red, swollen, irritated skin—regardless of age, but the location of the flare-up will likely change as your child grows.

Newborn To 6 Months

  • Face
  • Cheeks
  • Forehead
  • Scalp and head

6-12 Months

  • Elbows
  • Knees
  • Shins
  • Forearms

12 Months To 5 Years

  • Front of the elbow
  • Back of the knee
  • Wrists
  • Ankles
  • Around the mouth
  • Eyelids

5 Years And Older

For older children, flare-ups are often restricted to the hands or the folds of the elbows and knees.

The Difference Between Child And Adult Eczema

There is very little difference between child eczema and adult eczema. The main difference is the frequency with which flare-ups occur. As your child grows older, their skin becomes thicker and less sensitive. And with the right ongoing treatment, the occurrence of eczema flare-ups can be reduced.

So now that you know a bit about eczema, what causes flare-ups, and the difference between baby, child, and adult eczema, let’s turn our attention to treatment and prevention.

Treatment And Prevention Of Childhood Eczema Flare-Ups

1) Establish A Daily Skincare Routine

Mom and toddler caring for eczema-prone skin 

As soon as you see signs of a flare-up or suspect that your child might have eczema, the best thing you can do is start a daily skincare routine that includes emollients like Mustela’s Stelatopia Emollient Cream or Stelatopia Emollient Balm. These products provide four essential benefits:

  • They reinforce the protective moisture barrier on your child’s skin.
  • They add moisture to your child’s skin.
  • They prevent moisture from evaporating.
  • They soothe the itchiness and discomfort caused by eczema flare-ups.

All of Mustela’s eczema-prone skincare products are safe for children, newborns, and adults.

2) Inspect Your Child’s Environment For Triggers

Common environmental triggers include dust, rough fabrics, and even high temperatures that can irritate your child’s skin, leading to a flare-up. To prevent these itchy, red breakouts, inspect your child’s environment and remove or prevent contact with:

  • Tight or rough clothing
  • Hot water
  • Chlorinated water
  • Pet dander
  • Dust
  • Harsh soaps
  • Dry air
  • High temperatures

Granted, it’s not always possible to prevent all triggers from coming into contact with your child’s skin. But as long as you keep sensitive skin covered with an emollient, eczema flare-ups will be less likely to occur.

3) Prevent Eczema Flare-Ups Caused By Bath Time

Baby taking a bath with Mustela products to soothe Childhood Eczema 

To prevent eczema flare-ups caused by dry skin after a bath, follow these three simple steps:

For further flare-up protection, pat your child’s skin dry (instead of rubbing) with a soft towel and then apply an emollient cream immediately after bath time.

4) Talk To A Doctor About Food Allergies

It’s rare that your child’s eczema flare-ups are caused by food allergies, but it is possible. If you have removed all potential environmental triggers and are applying a daily emollient but the flare-up refuses to go away, it’s time to consult your doctor or pediatrician. They can test your child for food allergies (and other allergies) and help identify what might be irritating your child’s sensitive skin.

5) Protect Sensitive Skin With Long Pants & Long Sleeves

When your child wants to go outside to play, it’s important to protect their skin with long pants and long sleeves. This will keep environmental triggers like dirt, dust, and grass from irritating your little one’s skin and causing a flare-up.

Be sure to apply an emollient product before dressing your child, and if it’s warm, choose soft, breathable clothes to prevent excessive sweating.

6) Apply A Sunscreen Before Your Child Goes Outside

To protect your child’s skin from becoming irritated by the sun, always apply a sunscreen before they go outside. Even better yet, we recommend following the below steps:

  • Apply an emollient first (about a half-an-hour before your child goes outside, if possible).
  • Cover your child’s skin with a high-SPF sunscreen like Mustela’s SPF 50+ Broad Spectrum Sunscreen. Be sure to reapply often if your child will be outside for more than 2 hours.
  • Finish by dressing your child in long pants, long sleeves, and a wide-brimmed hat.

7) Teach Your Child To Avoid Or Cope With Stressful Situations

Stress can cause flare-ups just like environmental triggers can, so you should teach your child to avoid or cope with stressful situations whenever possible.

When major changes in your child’s life occur—first time at daycare, starting preschool or kindergarten, a move to a different town—be sure to reassure your child that everything is going to be okay.

If necessary, teach your child some coping techniques such as deep breathing or visualization. These will help your little one deal with the inevitable stresses that they will encounter throughout life.

When To Visit A Doctor

Child with eczema visiting a doctor

There’s often no need to visit a doctor or pediatrician at the first sign of an eczema flare-up. In most cases, applying an emollient cream or balm multiple times throughout the day should be enough to treat the flare-up.

It’s also important to inspect your child’s environment to see if any triggers are present. Does a new piece of clothing rub the wrong way or is it too rough? Is it time to give your child’s room a thorough cleaning? Identifying and removing these triggers can help decrease the duration of the flare-up.

If the eczema flare-up is still present after seven days despite using an emollient product, or if you notice a yellow or light-brown crust or blisters on top of the flare-up, call your doctor as soon as possible.

This could be a sign that your child has a bacterial infection. In these cases, your doctor may prescribe an antihistamine or an antibiotic. These medications will reduce the swelling, irritation, and itchiness that are causing your child so much discomfort.

With the flare-up gone, your child will feel better, sleep better, and be happier overall.