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Itch No More: Causes and Remedies for Eczema in Young Children

If your little one suffers from eczema, all these will be very familiar to you — dry, flaky skin on the neck that sometimes itches to the point of bleeding, or sensitive redness and rashes on the elbow creases, backs of knees, and even around the mouth. You dread seeing your little one wake up on a bedsheet full of blood and flaky dead skin from the overnight scratching.

These are symptoms of a common condition called eczema. Eczema in children is a common and prominent condition, affecting over 20% of Singaporean kids, from babies [1], to older school-going children [2].

We work with many parents who agonise over their child’s eczema to improve their quality of life. Today, we will be sharing how you can identify the type of eczema your little one (babies, toddlers, and children) may be suffering from, and what kinds of eczema treatment and remedies are available to you.


What is Eczema and How to Identify Eczema

According to the National Skin Centre, eczema refers to a group of conditions that are marked by irritated and inflamed patches of skin. If your child has mild eczema, it might look like occasional red blotches and rashes on smaller patches of skin. If your child has more severe eczema, they might be complaining about deep-seated itches and may have blistering skin, sometimes oozing blood. Eczema is non-contagious, but it is also a condition that is usually managed rather than cured.

Before you reach for just any baby eczema cream, pill, or home remedy, do take note that there are different types of eczema. Babies and children are most susceptible to atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, and seborrheic dermatitis. Let’s break those terms down further:

1) Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is the most prevalent type of eczema around the world.

Infant eczema for those up to 6 months might appear most prominently on your baby’s face and scalp. Up to 12 months, your baby’s eczema can appear on their elbows and knees — areas where there is more friction when they crawl and move around.

Eczema in toddlers between 1 and 5 years old may be found on their fingers, hands, ankles, or the creases of elbows and knees. Eczema around the mouth and eyelids is also common and the skin may look dry and flaky.

In older children above 5 years, eczema most commonly affects the elbow and knee creases. Inflamed patches of skin may also appear around the ears, arms, feet, and more. [3]

2) Contact Dermatitis

This form of eczema is caused by contact with surfaces, substances, or materials that are abrasive and irritating to the skin, or cause an allergic reaction on the skin.

Some of the fragrances, cosmetics, or jewellery you might use in the home could trigger contact dermatitis, but we recommend having your child go through allergen tests to better understand what they might be allergic to. The severity of this eczema usually depends on the strength of the irritant in contrast to your child’s immunity levels.

3) Seborrheic Dermatitis

Lastly, seborrheic dermatitis can be identified by a yellowish, greasy coating on the surface of the skin, or crusty and scaly rashes. This most commonly affects babies, but generally clears by the time that they are 2 months old. It is caused by excessive secretion or a change in the quality of sebum on the skin.


What are the Best Treatments and Remedies for Your Baby’s Eczema?

Eczema triggers can differ from child to child and include genetic predisposition, weakened immunity, poor gut health, and so on. As a result, there is a wide range of possible treatments and remedies for eczema management that help in different ways.

With the help of medical sources, anecdotal advice from other mums and dads, as well as Oriental Remedies Group physicians’ perspectives on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for eczema in babies and children, we compiled a comprehensive list of the possible solutions to help you find something that will work for you.

1) To stop itching…

Homemade Remedies for Eczema in Children

For mums and dads who prefer to use natural, homemade ingredients, if your child’s eczema is accompanied by small, itchy blisters, you can try creating a wheatgrass-apple cider vinegar paste that helps to dry down the blisters. Then, follow up with another turmeric-honey paste to reintroduce moisture and heal your child’s skin.

  • Wheatgrass-Apple Cider Vinegar Paste:
    • Mixing enough wheatgrass powder and apple cider vinegar (diluted with water in at least 1:1 ratio to start) to form a paste
    • Slather it on your child’s skin and wrap with a towel or plastic depending on where you find the eczema. Leave on for 30 minutes.
    • When the 30 minutes are up, wash off the paste and pat the skin dry.
  • Turmeric-Honey Paste:
    • Create another paste with turmeric and raw honey, to re-moisturise and enrich with the anti-inflammatory properties of honey.
    • Leave on the skin in a similar way for another 30 minutes before washing off.

OTC Topical Eczema Creams and Solutions

For more convenient, over-the-counter solutions to eczema on your child’s skin, you can try the following options:

  • Zinc Oxide Creams or Talcum Powder

Commonly used to treat diaper rash, zinc oxide has also been recommended by some parents as a treatment for eczema in children. Some of the parents we work with have recommended Sudocrem and Desitin, although others choose to use zinc oxide talcum powder instead of creams. Zinc oxide is also helpful for inflammation as well as skin resurfacing.

  • Chlorhexidine Antiseptic Solution
Source: medicalsupplies.com.sg

Clean the affected area with sterile chlorhexidine solution at 0.05% concentration, which is a topical antiseptic and antimicrobial. It will be very drying, but it will help to stop the itch. This must be followed up with moisturising ingredients.

  • Mild Eczema Steroid Creams

If your child is older than 2 years old, you may be able to try corticosteroid creams for eczema. These can help manage the symptoms of eczema. Examples include Aveeno’s Active Naturals 1% hydrocortisone cream, or the Xepa hydrocortisone 1% cream.

  • Oral Antihistamines

If your child’s eczema is affecting their sleep, or they need quick relief from the itch, oral antihistamines are an option for short-term, reactive suppression of an eczema flare-up. They work by blocking out inflammation temporarily, which is how the body reacts to allergens and irritants. This is not advised for young toddlers and infants, nor is it advised for long term use.

Some examples we commonly see at Watsons and Guardian are those with Cetirizine (e.g. Zyrtec, Aller-Tec) or Loratadine (e.g. Claritin).

2) To relieve dry skin… 

Moisturisers for Baby Eczema

If your baby’s skin becomes really dry or even starts to feel scaly, one of the things you can do to help provide relief is to use some moisturisers and creams suitable for infants with eczema. After all, creams with higher lipid content have been found to help with infant eczema and reduce the need for topical steroids down the line[4].

The best creams and lotions for your children’s eczema will be fragrance-free and contain as few ingredients as possible. Natural ingredients such as aloe vera and oatmeal also have skin-soothing properties that can ease the pain and discomfort caused by your baby’s eczema as they are gentle and natural ingredients.

Many of the parents we work with recommend the following baby eczema creams:

  • Aveeno’s Baby Eczema Therapy Cream
Source: aveeno.com

This moisturiser contains colloidal oatmeal as well as dimethicone, ingredients which will help soothe and then seal in the moisture on your baby’s skin.

  • Suu Balm Kids’ Dual Rapid Itch Relieving & Restoring Ceramide Moisturiser
Source: suubalm.com

This cream contains menthol and ceramides in concentrations suitable for newborn skin, so it will be suitable for your little ones.

3) To stop bleeding and oozing… 

We know how heartbreaking it is to see your child feeling the pain of cracked, oozing skin, and we know how you will want to stop it, fast.

Apple Cider Vinegar Sprays and Soaks

Apple Cider Vinegar is a star ingredient here, and can be used as a first step to dry out the oozing before you can start to heal your child’s skin with moisture. Be prepared that it may sting for your little one, but it has been tried and tested by many parents and found extremely effective for inflammation.

  • Apple Cider Vinegar & Aloe Vera Spray

Dilute 1 part apple cider vinegar with 9 parts water, then mix in aloe vera juice. Pour this solution into a small spray bottle and spray it on the affected areas of your child’s skin. Keep refrigerated.

  • Apple Cider Vinegar & Epsom Salt Bath Soak

Combine apple cider vinegar with epsom salts in the bath or in a basin for your child to soak in. Epsom salts, which contain magnesium sulfate, help to detoxify the body and reduce inflammation and swelling. Combined with apple cider vinegar, the solution should help to stop skin that is oozing.

4) To restore from outside in… 

Eczema is commonly understood to be caused by a weakened or malfunctioning immune system that overreacts to allergens and irritants inside and around our bodies. With a compromised immune system, our white blood cells may be unable to distinguish between what is local and foreign in our bodies. This results in inflammation, and one of the outlets of inflammation is on the skin through eczema.

Keep your home clean and allergen-free

One of the easiest ways to start is ensuring your home is clean and allergen-free for your little ones. This means avoiding pets, stuffed animals that collect dust easily (yes, no matter how much your kid will want to keep their bear or rabbit friend!), and products with strong fragrances and chemicals.

Instead, you should choose to use clothing that has tighter woven fibres and are less susceptible to fraying, like cottons and linens over wools, fragrance-free soaps, and you can use negative ion air ionisers to introduce more negative ions into your baby’s environment.

Negative air ionisers release negative ions the air which latches on to positive ions such as dust, bacteria and viruses. When these particles bond together, they become heavy and fall to the ground. While these surfaces still have to be disinfected to remove the fallen air pollutants (which includes not just dust, but also bacteria, viruses, and more), the air that you breathe in is now cleaned and safer for your child. In fact, the way ionisers purify and sanitize the air can simultaneously help with the fight against COVID-19. [5]

This is the negative ion air ioniser I use at home — it’s been 7 years and still going strong!

5) To restore from inside out… 

Another, lesser-known cause is related to weakened liver and gut health. The liver takes the brunt of filtering out the toxins in our blood and comes into the most contact with bacteria, allergens, and so on. If overwhelmed, it can lead to outbreaks on the skin. Similarly, poor gut health makes it easier for your child to be affected by allergens, again resulting in symptoms of inflammation through eczema on the skin. These are one of the best remedies for baby eczema, which will also be long term lifestyle changes for the better.

Nutrient-Rich, Whole Food Diet

The main culprit of poor gut health is eating processed foods that contain chemical preservatives and additives, saturated fats and sugars, or high levels of sodium. We know having fast food as a treat is tempting, even for adults, but you should try to stay clear of them to better manage your child’s eczema.

We recommend that you commit to an antioxidant-rich, nutrient-abundant diet for your child to help their bodies defend against free radicals which can weaken their immunity, hence making it more likely to experience inflammation through eczema. Examples of antioxidant-rich foods you can incorporate into your diet include soy products, goji berries, carrots, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, blueberries, eggplants, kale, spinach, and ginger.

We also recommend adding in essential fatty acids like omega 3 and vitamin B into your child’s diet with food like salmon, flaxseeds, and brown rice. These could all be beneficial to mending the dry and flaky skin you may see on your baby’s body.

Enhance Gut Health with Prebiotics and Probiotics

As mentioned earlier, ensuring a healthy gut is crucial for the regular functions of the body and to maintain a healthy immune system. Prebiotic-rich foods, like bananas, onions, soybeans, and garlic, as well as probiotic-rich foods, such as yoghurt, kimchi, and miso, can work together in synergy to improve gut health, reducing the tendency for eczema flare-ups over time.

If you need further probiotic supplements for your child, look out for those that contain lactobacillus rhamnosus. We have had some parents recommend LactoGG, which can be found at Watsons, to help with the gut, and especially if you tested that your child’s eczema is triggered by lactose intolerance.

Source: watsons.com.sg

Negative Ion Clothes

Free radicals cause oxidative stress on our bodies at a cellular level, causing inflammation at the superficial skin to deep within the body. Oxidative stress also damages our cells, proteins and even our DNA.[6] 

Exposure to high amounts of negative ions daily can prevent this. Negative ions are negatively-charged molecules that donate electrons to free radicals, stabilising them in the process thus preventing free radical damage.

Besides preventing inflammation due to free radical damage, negative ions can also regulate our immune system. It improves the immune cell’s function while preventing self damage. [7, pg148] As we shared earlier, eczema is often a result of a weakened or malfunctioning immune system. Through exposure to high density of negative ions, the immune system can be regulated.

Lastly, negative ions help regulate cellular metabolism which facilitates detoxification at a cellular level. They do so by facilitating the exchange of various substances (including toxins and wastes) across the cell membrane [7, pg108] Heavy metal toxicity/heavy metal poisoning, less commonly talked about, can trigger allergic reactions like eczema. With negative ions, your cellular metabolism increases which allows more efficient release of heavy metals from your cells.

Negative Ion Clothes is one of the most effective ways to expose your child to high amounts of negative ions 24/7. I myself wear Negative Ion Clothes to bed, to work and even to work out – my little one is also dressed in tailormade Negative Ion Clothes to prevent skin problems and for healthy development. Find out more about the Negative Ions Clothes here or drop me an email, I’m happy to share more 🙂

The whole family decked out in Negative Ion Clothes!

6) To restore through holistic wellness…

Last but not least, we have a few recommendations to improve eczema through a holistic wellness approach. In this method, the perspective is that eczema is just a symptom of imbalances within the body, and requires an approach that takes into account the whole ecosystem of our bodies and environments.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Approach

In TCM, eczema is viewed as a result of weaker overall immunity, poor digestion or gut health due to a diet of over-stimulating food, as well as affected by external factors like external wind, dampness, and hot and humid environments like in Singapore.

Oriental Remedies Group physicians advise that in general, the 5 main organs in TCM are much weaker and not fully developed in younger children. In particular, they tend to have weak lungs and weak spleen. Weak lungs lead to a weaker immunity whereas a weak spleen causes poor digestion; both or a combination of these can trigger eczema. If you notice that your child’s eczema has symptoms like blistering and oozing in particular, it could be due to a weaker spleen.

To manage these for children with eczema, TCM physicians will most likely prescribe a mix of herbal medication, acupuncture (in cases where you child agrees to it), and pediatric tuina massage with the goal to:

  1. Support the functions of the lungs and spleen in your children
  2. Expel wind, dampness, and heat to alleviate the common eczema symptoms that may be causing your child pain (e.g. itchiness, blisters, scaly skin, red and inflamed skin)

But, something you can do at home to help make the eczema treatment even more effective for your child is to give a light massage on the following points:

  1. Shi Da Shou Fa (四大手法): 4-Point Massage on the Head

You can massage the following 4 points on your child’s head to help expel wind, relief itch, and calm your child’s mind:

  • Kai Tian Men (开天门) — Use both your thumbs to rub upwards on your child’s forehead, ~30–50 times.
  • Tui Kan Gong (推坎宫) — Use both your thumbs to pull from the inner brows to the outer brows, ~30–50 times.
  • Rou Tai Yang (揉太阳) — Using your thumb or index fingers, rub circles on the temples of your child, ~30–50 times.
  • Rou Er Hou Gao Gu (揉耳后高骨) — Use your thumbs or index fingers, massage on the high bone points behind your child’s ear, about 30 times.

Please visit this page for more details on the massage techniques. Source of images: zhuanlan.zhihu.com

  1. Bu Pi (补脾) Point Massage

Massaging this point from the tip of the thumb downwards towards the base of the thumb 50-100 times, helps to strengthen the spleen.

Diagram of massage for spleen and lung in children

Source: line.17.qq.com

Using these techniques as well as undergoing a customised, recommended TCM treatment can help your child build up their health holistically. Strengthening overall immunity can also help to reduce the frequency and severity of eczema flare-ups for your child, which is the ideal state we want to work towards.

Ayurvedic Medicine

Similar to TCM, the Ayurvedic technique takes on a holistic approach to health and wellness, seeking out the restoration of balance between one’s energies to achieve and maintain good health. In Ayurvedic medicine, eczema is typically targeted with what is called Panchakarma therapy, which aims to alleviate eczema by removing toxins and bolstering immunity. The therapy involves consuming medicated ghee (herbal decoctions and pastes) for up to 1 week, body massage, induced perspiration as well as induced vomiting.

Alternatively, Ayurvedic herbal remedies may also be prescribed, and may feature herbs and spices such as cardamom, turmeric, Indian gooseberry, kava kava, the winter cherry, and more. It also promotes dietary changes, much like we discussed previously, to include antioxidant- and vitamin-rich foods, ideally plant-based.

For best results, we do recommend seeking out a trained practitioner who has more expertise in the Ayurvedic technique.

Conclusions

Now that you’ve come to the end of the article, we hope that you’re now more equipped with different kinds of solutions and treatments that could help your little one recover from eczema. The key thing is to be patient with your child or baby’s eczema recovery, as it could be something you need to create a holistic treatment and lifestyle change for.

Citations

[1] Baby Bonus Online, Ministry of Social and Family Development. (2018). Eczema. https://www.babybonus.msf.gov.sg/parentingresources/web/Toddlers/ToddlersIllness/ToddlersEczema/Toddlers_Eczema

[2] Tay, Y. K., Kong, K. H., Khoo, L., Goh, C. L. & Giam, Y. C. (2002). The Prevalence and Descriptive Epidemiology of Atopic Dermatitis in Singapore School Children. The British Journal of Dermatology 146, 101–106.

[3] National Eczema Association. (2020). Understanding Your Child’s Eczema.https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/children/

[4] Grimalt, R., Mengeaud, V., & Cambazard, F. (2007). The Steroid-Sparing Effect of an Emollient Therapy in Infants with Atopic Dermatitis: A Randomized Controlled Study. Dermatology: International Journal for Clinical and Investigational Dermatology 214(1), 61-67. DOI: 10.1159/00009691.

[5] Russell, G.  (2020). Coronavirus: Ionisers may be key in fight to defeat Covid-19. The National. https://www.thenational.scot/news/18351414.coronavirus-ionisers-may-key-fight-defeat-covid-19/

[6] Jamie, E. (2019). How does oxidative stress affect the body? Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324863#:~:text=Immune%20cells%20called%20macrophages%20produce,or%20repairs%20the%20damaged%20tissue.

[7] Seng, T. B., Dr. (2010). Anions in Health Living.

Disclaimer

Specific disclaimer for this post: This post is strictly for educational purposes only. Information shared here is based on my own experience and extensive personal research. It is not intended to replace medical advice. You are encouraged to seek advice from healthcare professionals for your specific medical condition.

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