Managing Eczema in Babies and Kids in Brisbane
Finding a treatment for eczema in babies or toddlers especially in the Brisbane weather is an exhausting, heartbreaking and often quite isolating journey for parents, however following these tips to help your child through this upsetting and painful time can help to put all the individual piece of the eczema puzzle together towards management of this now commonly occurring condition.
1. Eliminate laundry irritants
Eczema babies or toddlers even in the heat of Brisbane spend a lot of time either being bundled up in clothing, being wrapped up or in sleeping bags, laying on cot sheets or even being held against our own clothing. So it makes sense that the simplest thing you can try to eliminate when you first notice your baby has eczema, is to remove any potential laundry irritants and change to natural laundry options such as soap nuts or even eucalyptus oil. Many people worry that these won’t wash as well as other commercial detergents, but they do and often better. Soap nuts are not actual nuts, they are in fact berries containing a natural detergent called saponin that is released from their shells when in contact with water. You will only need to add 6-8 half soap nuts in a cotton wash bag (or even an old sock or stocking tied up) to a washing load and these can be reused for around 4-5 wash loads in cold water or 2-3 wash loads in hot water. They are not only allergy safe, but also cost effective and can be used for the entire family’s laundry, even on stains and colours. Eucalyptus oil can be purchased relatively inexpensively from most supermarkets and like soap nuts also makes a safe and cost effective laundry alternative for the whole family. Just a spoonful in with each load will result in clothes smelling fresh, clean and bright.
2. Eliminate bath time irritants that harm sensitive skin
Soap products are notorious triggers for eczema in babies, often containing a multitude of ingredients harmful to sensitive skin. A baby will not suffer at all if they are only bathed in plain water and it is usually best to try this option for a while first to see if the eczema improves or not. Once it has improved, you could then try adding small amounts of natural and gentler alternatives such as bath oils, organic baby soaps, shampoos or goats milk soap which can still provide a nice bath time experience without the damage and drying.
3. Eliminate dust mites as much as possible
Dust mites are microscopic and feed on skin scales, so they love bedding, carpets, upholstered furniture, clothing, closets and even car seats. Therefore, keeping these areas as clean as possible and vacuuming as often as possible will help reduce their ability to cause irritation, but it is especially important to keep their favourite places – mattresses and bedding clean. The best way to do this is to ensure all pillows, quilts and mattresses are enclosed with non-allergenic covers and that these and all bedding (including soft toys children sleep with) is washed in a hot wash of at least 60°C which will kill any dust mites. Ultraviolet light is also harmful to dust mites and so leaving a mattress and pillows out in the sun during warmer weather will also help. Carpets are also a breeding ground for dust mites. If you are in a position to choose the most allergy friendly flooring for your home, wooden floorboards are the best option or if short pile carpets and rugs.
4. Determine any food allergies/intolerances
Eczema in babies and toddlers is in many cases caused by underlying issues such as food allergies or intolerances, but determining what this might be for your child is overwhelming. It is worthwhile discussing the options with your doctor who, in Australia can refer your child to a specialist allergy or eczema clinic. While there are many private specialists in these areas, most major hospital also run their own specialist outpatient clinic too where they can perform allergy tests like ‘scratch tests’ or blood tests to test against a variety of common allergens.
5. Moisturise using a layering technique
There are definitely some great moisturisers out there more suitable for sensitive eczema skin than others, however the secret is not always what brand you use, but in how you use it.
The trick to allowing the best chance for moisturisers to work their way into eczema skin is to layer them from prescription ones (if they are used), to thinner ones through to thicker ones. By doing this, moisture is not only added to the skin, but a barrier is also created trapping this moisture in for longer and nourishing and re-hydrating the skin. It can be compared to thinking of skin like a brick wall. Without the mortar to keep it all together, it will crack and break, followed then by a protective barrier like sealant or paint to add further protection.
Most major pharmaceutical brand creams developed for eczema are available in normal moisturiser or lotion form as well as thick, almost wax-like intensive creams. Finding natural and organic equivalents is a little more difficult but they do exist especially in calendula product ranges which have a lot of natural skin healing properties too.
6. Keep eczema babies cool in Brisbane
Heat either from heaters during winter or during warm weather months is a common eczema trigger for babies. Using fans and keeping them cool however possible during hot weather can help reduce flare-ups. If out and about, carry a face washer in a ziplock back with some iceblocks in it and use it to give your baby a quick wipe down and keep them a bit cooler. When you are home, given them a bath filled with cool water if they seem overly hot. In winter, it can be helpful to use a vaporiser or humidifier in your baby’s room or in a room they spend a lot of time in, which can help prevent eczema flare-ups by counteracting the dry air produced by heaters.
7. Wet dressings and using Tubifast garments to manage Eczema
Wet dressing or wet wrapping is used when usual prescription creams and moisturisers are not controlling an eczema flare-up. It is the process of applying wet linen bandages or specially designed tubular garments (like Tubifast garments, made to fit over different body parts) over the top of prescription and/or moisturiser creams on the parts of the body affected by eczema. The process of wet dressing is outlined in detail already at the Westmead Children’s Hospitals site by clicking this link, however in a nutshell, it is best done before bedtime, starting with letting your baby soak in a lukewarm bath containing a bath oil. Once they are out, you can soak the bandages or Tubifast garments in this water (or clean lukewarm water) while you apply your child’s creams or moisturisers as you normally would, layering them over the top of each other. The bandages or Tubifast garments are then applied on the eczema areas and left on for as long as possible or even overnight. The process can seem daunting at first but is extremely beneficial during acute flare-ups. The Tubifast garments specially designed for different areas of the body do make the process a lot simpler and easier, but also another useful trick is to use a cotton jumpsuit or top or pants (depending on where the eczema is located on the body) and wet this, using it as the wet dressing.
8. Dress in natural and breathable fabrics suitable for Brisbane climate
Dressing your eczema baby or toddler in natural, breathable fabrics like 100% cotton or bamboo both naturally hypo-allergenic will not irritate already sensitive skin while also giving their skin optimal chance of healing and reduce flare-ups often caused by synthetic fabrics. Bamboo fabric in particular has the following benefits that make it ideal for clothing and sleepwear for babies and toddlers: • Its fibres expand when warm to let skin breathe, and contract when cool to trap heat close to the body, so it will keep your baby’s body temperature regulated and prevent additional itching from overheating, but also keep them warm in the colder months. • It has natural anti-bacterial properties which will not aggravate skin prone to infection • It is a highly durable, absorbent fabric that draws excess moisture away from the skin preventing further abrasion to sensitive skin.
9. Keep hands or feet covered to prevent further scratching damage
It might seem obvious to keep hands and feet as covered as you can at times when you can’t ‘supervise’ the scratching, but it is also one of the hardest things to achieve with an eczema baby or toddler, who are notorious for their Houdini-like behaviour and finding ways to escape to relieve their itch by scratching! Baby mittens, gloves or even socks over hands or arms usually only work on very small babies, but thankfully there are now ranges of specialist eczema clothing available in the form of tops with opening and closing mitten sleeves, mitten sleeves with opening or closed mittens that only cover arms, pants with enclosed feet or even specially designed swaddling wraps or baby sleeping bags to keep hands enclosed, minimising any damage that trying to scratch can cause.
10. Keep an eye out for other triggers – Stress, Sickness & teething are eczema triggers
It is a cruel fact that it is often not just a food or environmental trigger which can cause your child’s eczema, but that stress, sickness and teething can also cause flare-ups and many parents report that sometimes it is the onset of a flare-up which becomes their warning signal right before their child becomes sick or a new tooth pops through! It is possible that these things all place strain on an immune system triggering eczema in those already prone to it and probably is also exacerbated by the sleeplessness that also goes hand in hand with all three of these triggers.
By Kelly Northey Kelly Northey is the Brisbane designer of the Bamboo Bubby Bag™ a one size fits 000-2+ baby sleeping bag made from the softest blend of bamboo and organic cotton fabric, designed especially for eczema babies and toddlers. Its unique enclosed, adjustable sleeve will grow with your baby throughout their entire first 2-3 years, allowing delicate skin to heal naturally while also providing a goodnight’s sleep. The Bamboo Bubby Bag™ if available for sale worldwide online at: www.bamboobubby.com.au and available for delivery to any Brisbane families battling eczema.