One-in-five children has eczema and it's a condition that causes parents a significant amount of worry. It usually appears for the first time before the age of two as a baby's skin barrier is much thinner so breaks down more easily.
Babies also lose a lot more water from their skin which allows allergens to get through. This week is National Eczema Week so Hope's Relief, the award winning natural skincare company is offering advice to parents who are concerned about their children's skin.
Parents looking for support can visit www.facebook.com/hopesreliefuk for advice and information videos from Hope's Relief resident skin expert and medical herbalist, Lindsey Miller.
Here are some of Lindsey's key pieces of advice for parents looking to protect their baby's sensitive skin, naturally:
Bath time: If your baby suffers from dry skin don't be tempted to bath every night of the week - just once or twice a week should be adequate. We know that parents and babies enjoy bath time, but baby skin is very fragile and frequent exposure to water and especially the use of soaps or bubble baths will dry the skin. When you do bath your baby, keep the water tepid and be careful to pat dry and never rub delicate areas.
Avoid scratching. This may be the biggest challenge of all but scratching only damages the skin further and can also introduce harmful bacteria into the wound. This causes further inflammation, irritation and possible infection. For young babies and children I recommend cotton body suits and scratch mittens to help them stop scratching the skin, especially at night when scratching is more common and a good night sleep is also critical to good skin health.
Identify triggers: If you are concerned that flare-ups could be related to a food allergy, don't eliminate any foods unless absolutely sure as getting a healthy balanced diet is crucial for children. Foods to keep a watch for are: cows' milk (dairy), eggs, soya, wheat, fish and nuts. Solanceae or deadly nightshade family food groups can also cause problems with some people; these include potatoes, aubergines, cucumbers and peppers. I often find that tomatoes and orange juice can be the hidden and unsuspected culprits!
Omega 3: Children often don't eat enough of this wonderful fatty acid which is fantastic for skin as it is anti-inflammatory and therefore good for dry, irritable, sore skin conditions. Is it any wonder, as some of the richest sources are found in cold water oily fish such as: mackerel, herring, sardines, pilchards, salmon and tuna (fresh, not tinned!) Not often top of a child's favourite foods list! To combat this, I often recommend an Omega 3 fish oil supplement high in EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid).
Choose natural: Synthetic chemicals in everyday skincare products like Sodium Lauryl Sulphate, parabens, mineral oils, petrochemicals and artificial fragrances can all cause skin irritation. Choose natural, unperfumed, uncoloured products and those that are soap-free. To clear up particularly bad flare-ups you need to be committed and consistent with your care. It isn't always necessary to use hydrocortisone creams. For a baby's skin I would use an intensive treatment like Hope's Relief €˜Intensive Rescue Cream'. Apply the cream 3-4 times a day for 1-2 weeks until the condition has improved. You may begin to see results over night, but for the most cases it will take time for the skin to heal and this usually takes between 3-6 weeks.
Small lifestyle changes: Always seek professional medical advice and help. In my experience there is rarely one single cause for stubborn skin conditions. Making small lifestyle changes in all areas is generally more helpful to keep problems at bay long term.