When you finally identify those dry, red, itchy patches on your baby’s skin as eczema or atopic dermatitis, a lot of the worry and stress goes away. That’s because this form of eczema is very common (it affects one in every five children, ref: gosh.nhs.uk) and can be very easily treated without a prescription. But often, knowing your baby has eczema (atopic dermatitis) can raise even more questions, like:
- Can eczema (atopic dermatitis) be cured?
- Can your baby’s eczema (atopic dermatitis) improve or even disappear?
- What factors affect eczema (atopic dermatitis) flare-ups?
- When will eczema (atopic dermatitis) first appear?
- What is the best treatment for this skin condition?
Mustela is here to help. This article will answer those questions and help you see why, if you treat it correctly, eczema (atopic dermatitis) isn’t anything to worry about.
Can Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis) Be Cured?
The simple answer is no, eczema (atopic dermatitis) cannot be cured. This form of eczema is encoded in your baby’s genetic makeup and can never be removed completely. The red, itchy patches that flare up on your baby’s skin are caused by a combination of:
- Atopic-prone (dry) skin.
- A reaction to some allergen(s) in your baby’s environment.
As bad as that may sound, eczema does not pose a threat to your baby’s long term health or happiness. Because eczema (atopic dermatitis) is essentially an allergy like the hay fever that most adults suffer from, that means there is relief that can improve your baby’s comfort level and temperament. Unlike you, your baby can’t take an allergy pill. Instead, they just need a little TLC in the form of a daily application of emollient cream. When your baby’s body reacts to the allergens, it’s with inflamed, itchy skin instead of with sneezing and a runny nose. When put that way, it doesn’t seem like such a major thing any more, does it?
Can Your Baby’s (Eczema) Atopic Dermatitis Improve or Even Disappear?
Yes! Your baby’s eczema (atopic dermatitis) will get better, and will even disappear completely if treated properly. Again, that doesn’t mean your baby is cured. Your child will always be prone to eczema (atopic dermatitis) outbreaks, even into adulthood, because of their atopic-prone skin. And those flare-ups will come and go from time to time depending on their environment and how much care is put into preventing them.
Before we talk about treatment options, it’s important to understand what factors can lead to an eczema (atopic dermatitis) flare-up, and when those flare-ups can first appear.
What Factors Affect Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis) Flare-Ups?
One of the major factors that can affect eczema (atopic dermatitis) flare-ups is your baby’s skin itself. The genetic condition mentioned earlier can result in what’s called atopic-prone skin. This is really just a fancy term for skin that is dry and easily irritated. On a more technical note, atopic-prone skin is characterized by “holes” in the protective layer of water and oil (hydrolipidic barrier) on your baby’s skin. Those holes allow moisture to escape and allergens to get in. This combination of dry skin and irritation, leads to flare-ups when conditions are right. What makes the conditions “just right”?
It all depends on the sensitivity of your child’s skin. If they suffer from extreme atopic-prone skin, every little thing may cause a flare-up. If they suffer from mild atopic-prone skin, only a very specific set of circumstances may cause a flare-up. And those “just right” conditions also depend on your child’s environment and activities. They may be allergic to certain fabrics, the pet dander from your dog, or even something they ate. That’s why it’s so important to consult a physician to help you identify the triggers that set off your baby’s eczema (atopic dermatitis).
Another major factor that affects eczema (atopic dermatitis) flare-ups is regular daily care. As you’ll see in the care and prevention section below, the diligence with which you treat your baby’s skin goes a long way toward minimizing the itchiness and swelling of flare-ups and even keeping them at bay. Now that we know what can lead to an eczema (atopic dermatitis) flare-up, let’s discuss when those flare-ups may first appear.
When Will Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis) First Appear?
The first signs of atopic-prone (dry) skin can appear at birth. Dry, even scaly, patches of skin can indicate that your baby may suffer from an eczema (atopic dermatitis) flare-up. Those flare-ups usually begin to occur when your baby is two-months old, although they can appear even earlier. Flare-ups are nothing to get worked up and worried about. They will not cause any lasting damage to your baby’s skin unless they are left untreated and get infected.
From two months to one year of age, flare-ups will mostly appear on the chubby areas of your baby’s body:
Keep in mind that stress can also set off an eczema (atopic dermatitis) flare-up. So even if you treat your baby’s skin daily and haven’t seen an outbreak in months, when they start teething around six months, a flare-up may appear despite your best efforts. This, in itself, is nothing to worry about. It doesn’t mean that the condition has worsened and that you did something wrong. It merely means that the stress of teething caused an extreme reaction on their skin. Keep up the treatment as we outline below, and when that initial teething pain goes away, so too will their eczema (atopic dermatitis) flare-up.
After the age of one, eczema (atopic dermatitis) may appear less on the chubby areas of your baby’s skin, and more on the skin folds such as elbows, neck, back of the knees, wrists, and even behind the ears (a particularly atopic-prone part of the body). By the age of three or four, flare-ups will continue to appear on skin folds, but will also appear on hands and around the mouth and eyes. By five or six, eczema (atopic dermatitis) usually goes away. This is thanks to a combination of treatment and your child’s development. Even after the symptoms disappear, continue to treat them just like you did before to minimize flare-ups from occurring.
Care & Prevention Of Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis)
The best method for treating and preventing eczema (atopic dermatitis) flare-ups, is to apply an emollient product to your baby’s skin every day. We recommend Mustela’s Stelatopia Emollient Cream or Stelatopia Emollient Balm. These specially-designed formulas are safe enough to start using the day your baby is born, and powerful enough to use every day thereafter to prevent atopic-prone skin and eczema (atopic dermatitis) flare-ups. Simply apply the emollient product twice a day to clean, dry skin while paying special attention to particularly dry areas. You can also prevent eczema (atopic dermatitis) during bath time by using Mustela’s Stelatopia Bath Oil to keep irritating chemicals off your baby’s skin. That’s it! The simple act of applying a cream twice a day can prevent an uncomfortable flare-up from ever occurring.