Eczema can show up as crusty, flaky patches on your baby’s skin, often during their first few months. It’s common and treatable. Many infants outgrow it.
Not sure if your baby’s itchy, irritated rash is eczema? Your doctor can tell you for sure. These questions and answers can help you understand what to look for.
What Does Baby Eczema Look Like?
Eczema doesn’t look the same on every baby. In babies with light skin, it usually shows up as patches of red skin. In darker-skinned babies, the rash might look purplish, brownish, or grayish. Eczema can be harder to see on babies with dark skin.
These patches are almost always dry, itchy, and rough.
Babies can get the condition just about anywhere on their body. Most often, it affects their cheeks and the joints of their arms and legs.
It’s easy to confuse baby eczema (also called infant eczema or atopic dermatitis) with cradle cap. But there are some key differences.
Cradle cap is much less itchy and irritated. It generally clears up by age 8 months and usually appears on the scalp, sides of the nose, eyelids and eyebrows, and behind the ears.
It can run in families. If a parent has eczema, a baby is a lot more likely to get it, too.
Problems in the skin barrier, allowing moisture out and germs in, could also be a cause.
Eczema happens when the body makes too few fatty cells called ceramides. If you don’t have enough of them, your skin will lose water and become very dry.
Does Baby Eczema Go Away by Itself?
It often does. Most children outgrow it before they start school.
It’s not common, but some kids will have eczema into adulthood. They may have times — even years — without the symptoms. But they may still tend to have dry skin. Get more information on kids, allergies, and eczema.
What Can Make It Worse
Dry skin. It can make a baby’s skin itchier. Low humidity, especially during winter when homes are well-heated and the air is dry, is a cause.
Irritants. Think scratchy wool clothes, polyester, perfumes, body soaps, and laundry soaps. These can all trigger symptoms.
Stress. Children with eczema may react to stress by flushing. That can lead to itchy, irritated skin. And that, in turn, ramps up their eczema symptoms.
Heat and sweat. Both can make the itch of infant eczema worse.
Allergens. It’s not certain, but some experts believe that removing cow’s milk, peanuts, eggs, or certain fruits from a child’s food may help control eczema symptoms. Remember that your baby can get exposed to these foods if their mother eats them before they breastfeed.