Watching your child suffer the constant itch and irritation of baby eczema can be really frustrating!
Eczema is a lingering, itchy, but non-contagious inflammatory skin condition that is common in children. There are different types of eczema, and the most common type that afflicts children is called atopic dermatitis.
Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, affects an estimated 30 percent of the U.S. population, mostly children and adolescents, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases .
In children, this condition typically starts at age 6 months or anytime within the first five years of the child’s life. In some children, the symptoms may last through childhood and adolescence.
A 2010 study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology found that 39 percent of Caucasian children develop eczema by age 3. Interestingly, the study also found that children who have a dog in the home are significantly less likely to develop eczema at any age .
So far, experts have not identified a definitive cause of eczema in children. Some experts believe that it’s due to a nutritional deficiency, while others believe it may first arise due to an allergen or other irritant.
Some of the widely accepted causes and contributing factors leading to eczema include dry and sensitive skin that cracks; poor immunity; environmental conditions; allergies to foods, laundry detergents or other chemicals; and changes in temperature.
Also, low vitamin D levels during pregnancy may increase the risk of a child developing eczema before age 1.
Symptoms of eczema in children can range from mild to severe, and change from one outbreak to another. Common symptoms include:
- Small, raised bumps that may ooze liquid and develop a crust.
- Thick, dry and scaly skin that cracks.
- Red or brown patches of skin on the hands, feet, ankles, wrists, neck, upper chest, eyelids, in skin folds, and on the face and scalp of infants.
- Sensitive skin that is swollen and raw from scratching.
- Intense itching, often disrupting sleep patterns.
- Rashes on the skin.
As there is no definitive cause of eczema, there is no identified cure either. But there are some effective natural treatments that may help prevent future flare-ups and ease discomfort during an outbreak.
Here are the top 10 home remedies for eczema in children.
Using the right moisturizer is one of the best ways to deal with eczema flare-ups in children. Lack of moisturizing can cause skin dryness and lead to eczema flare-ups.
Moisturizers are essential any time of the year if your child suffers from eczema, and especially during the winter months when the skin tends to become dry more often.
Get a good quality moisturizer, particularly an ointment rather than a cream, and apply it on your child’s skin to prevent dryness. Another option you can try is almond oil, which is thick and helps keep your child’s skin moisturized for hours.
It is best to apply moisturizers and oils when the skin is still wet after a bath or shower to seal in the moisture.
2. Colloidal Oatmeal
Colloidal oatmeal (oats ground into an extremely fine powder) is a good remedy for children suffering from eczema.
It helps soothe and comfort itchy skin. It contains anti-irritating, anti-inflammatory and soothing properties that provide instant relief.
A 2012 study published in Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology found colloidal oatmeal to be a safe and effective ingredient in personal care products .
Another study published in Dermatology Research and Practice in 2012 reports that consistent, frequent and liberal use of emollients like colloidal oatmeal is recommended to maintain the skin barrier function in patients with mild atopic dermatitis, even in the absence of lesions .
- Add 1 cup of colloidal oatmeal to a bathtub filled with lukewarm water. Help your child soak in this water for at least 15 to 20 minutes. Use this remedy 1 or 2 times a day, depending on the severity of the skin condition.
- Alternatively, add a little water to a few tablespoons of colloidal oatmeal and let it sit until it thickens into a paste-like consistency. Apply this mixture on the itchy skin, cover it with a cloth and leave it on for 30 minutes. Use this remedy once daily.
3. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar can be used both internally and externally for eczema relief in children as well as adults.
Raw and organic apple cider vinegar helps balance the skin’s pH level. Also, its antibacterial and antifungal properties help kill bacteria and fungi that sometimes accompany eczema.
For topical use:
- Add 2 cups of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar to lukewarm bathwater. Make your child soak in this bath for 15 to 30 minutes. Then pat dry the skin and apply a light moisturizer. Do this daily.
- Alternatively, dilute raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar with an equal amount of water. Using a cotton ball, apply it on the itchy area. Leave it on for 30 minutes, then rinse it off with lukewarm water. Do this once or twice daily.
- Add ½ to 1 teaspoon of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar to a glass of warm water. Add 1 teaspoon of raw honey. Make your child drink it twice daily.
4. Aloe Vera
A 2012 study published in Scientific World Journal suggests that topical use of aloe vera could serve as a safe and effective treatment for diaper dermatitis in infants .
So, whether your child suffers from diaper dermatitis or atopic dermatitis, aloe vera is an excellent remedy.
Aloe vera has anti-inflammatory properties that help soothe the itching as well as the burning sensation. Plus, its antimicrobial properties help prevent further skin infection.
Also, it helps hydrate the skin and keep the area moisturized.
- Extract the gel from a fresh aloe leaf. You can also add a few drops of vitamin E oil to the aloe gel.
- Apply the gel directly on the affected skin.
- Allow it to dry on its own, then rinse it off with warm water.
- Use this simple treatment twice daily for several weeks.
5. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is another effective remedy for eczema, whether for a child or an adult. It has antifungal, antibacterial, antimicrobial and antioxidant properties.
Coconut oil works as a good moisturizer to help keep your child’s skin from drying out.
Plus, it is a storehouse of healthy vitamins and nutrients, such as lauric acid and vitamins K and E that help combat itchiness and soothe the skin. For best results, use unrefined, virgin, cold-pressed coconut oil.
A study published in Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine reports that virgin coconut oil works as an excellent emollient and natural antibacterial agent, in addition to demonstrating anti-inflammatory activity .
- For topical use: Apply coconut oil directly on the affected skin several times a day to get relief from itching. Continue for as many days as needed until the symptoms are gone completely.
- For consumption: Include 1 to 2 tablespoons of extra virgin coconut oil to your child’s diet to help alleviate eczema symptoms and improve overall immunity. You can add it to your child’s foods or drinks.
6. Cold Compress
To help your child get instant relief from itchiness due to eczema, nothing works better than a cold compress.
The sensations of both cold and itching travel along the same nerve fibers in the body, so applying a cold compress dampens the itching sensation. The cold temperature also helps numb the area, which further reduces the itchiness.
- Wrap a few ice cubes in a clean cloth. Put this ice pack on the itchy area for a few minutes. Take a break for 30 seconds and reapply it. Repeat until the itching stops. Use this remedy as needed.
- You can also run cool tap water over the affected area for as long as necessary.
Caution: Never put ice directly on the skin, as it can lead to frostbite.
7. Indian Lilac
Indian lilac, also known as neem, is another great remedy for children suffering from eczema.
The antibacterial, analgesic, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties help relieve eczema symptoms like dryness, pain, redness, swelling and inflammation. Plus, neem oil helps keep the affected skin moisturized.
- Dilute 5 or 6 drops of neem oil with some carrier oil. Lightly dab it onto the affected area using a cotton swab or cotton ball, and allow it to sit for up to 20 minutes. Wash off the oil with warm water. Repeat once or twice daily until you achieve the desired results.
- Alternatively, you can add a few drops of neem oil to warm bathwater and help your child soak in it for no longer than 20 minutes. Pat dry the skin gently, then apply some light moisturizer. Use this treatment once daily.
8. Sunflower Seed Oil
Sunflower seed oil has been used extensively in the treatment of different skin disorders, including eczema .
Sunflower oil improves the barrier function of the skin, which in turn prevents skin dryness. It also provides relief from itchiness. Plus, it is safe to use as massage oil for babies.
A 2013 study published in Pediatric Dermatology reports that sunflower seed oil improved hydration of the skin in infants .
- Massage your child’s skin with sunflower oil.
- Leave it on for at least 20 minutes.
- Do it twice daily.
9. Maintain an Even Temperature
A change in temperature can aggravate the symptoms of eczema. In fact, sudden temperature changes contribute to dry skin and itchy sensations.
So, it is recommended to maintain an even temperature to deal with eczema in children.
Try maintaining an even temperature in the rooms where your child spends the most time. Keep each room at a constant, comfortable temperature.
During the winter months, instead of using one thick duvet, use layers of bed coverings for your child so that he or she can remove them one by one depending on how warm they feel.
If your child’s eczema symptoms flare up during the winter months, then the trigger may be lack of humidity, which tends to remain low in the winter.
Plus, central heating systems force hot air throughout the home, which makes the skin drier and causes eczema flare-ups. In such a case, using a humidifier to help add moisture back into the air is the best solution.
Keep your child’s room at a comfortable temperature that is not too warm or too cold, with a humidity level between 45 and 55 percent to prevent the skin from drying out.
Instead of buying a humidifier, you can simply keep a bowl of water in each room where your child spends the most time to help increase the moisture in the air. No matter what you decide to use, keep it clean to prevent mold growth.
- Avoid with irritants, as determined by your child’s physician. Common irritants include animal dander, cigarette smoke and chemical sprays.
- Teach your child to practice good skin care techniques.
- Keep the temperature of your child’s room cool at night to prevent sweating, which can irritate the skin.
- Keep your child’s fingernails cut short, as scratching may contribute to an infection.
- Mix 5 to 10 drops of chamomile oil into your child’s bathwater for relief from itching and dryness.
- Food allergies may work as a trigger for some children with eczema. To tackle this problem, feed your child probiotic foods or use probiotic supplements under your pediatrician’s guidance.
- Heat and sweat can make eczema worse, so make sure your child does not play out in the sun for long hours.
- An allergic reaction to dust mites can worsen eczema, so keep your child’s room, bedding and clothing clean.
- Avoid bubble baths and soaps, as they can irritate and dry out the skin. Choose a mild, fragrance-free cleanser instead.
- To manage dry skin and eczema, make sure your child eats a healthy and nutritious diet.
- Also, keep your child’s body hydrated by reminding him or her to drink water more often.
- Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis). National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. https://www.niaid.nih.gov/diseases-conditions/eczema-atopic-dermatitis. Published July 25, 2018.
- Genetic and environmental risk factors for childhood eczema development and allergic sensitization in the CCAAPS cohort. Journal of Investigative Dermatology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19759553. Published February 2010.
- Safety and efficacy of personal care products containing colloidal oatmeal. Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3508548. Published 2012.
- Management of Patients with Atopic Dermatitis: The Role of Emollient Therapy. Dermatology Research and Practice. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3449106. Published 2012.
- A Randomized Comparative Trial on the Therapeutic Efficacy of Topical Aloe vera and Calendula officinalis on Diaper Dermatitis in Children. Scientific World Journal. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3346674. Published 2012.
- Alternative, Complementary, and Forgotten Remedies for Atopic Dermatitis. Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4518179. Published 2015.
- Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5796020. Published January 2018.
- Effect of olive and sunflower seed oil on the adult skin barrier: implications for neonatal skin care. Pediatric Dermatology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22995032.