Dear Diary,

Over your lifetime, you probably walked to raise money and raise awareness for cancer, lupus, MS, or epilepsy. But have you tied up your sneakers for eczema? Although the ailment is far from deadly, and I wouldn’t dare compare it to a devastating disease, eczema doesn’t have a cure. And for the first time, a charity walk was held in North Carolina to try to find one.

Like many people, I have dry skin from time to time, but it’s nothing a little lotion can’t combat. Eczema on the other hand needs more attention. I heard of it, but never really educated myself on the matter, until I became a mom. When my daughter was a couple of months old, I noticed dry patches on her skin. I moisturized her often and ran a humidifier. But the problem didn’t go away. Her pediatrician prescribed Nystatin. The ointment cleared up the red rash on my daughter’s face, but it didn’t do anything about the scaly skin on her body. The doctor then bumped up the medicine to Desonide. I was uneasy about using a steroid ointment, because I heard rumors that it caused hyper pigmentation, especially on African American babies. It worked, but left behind light spots. I later learned it was the eczema not the steroid that caused this. Later, a pediatric dermatologist refilled the Desonide prescription. She said once the problematic areas healed, lather on CeraVe Cream or Aquaphor Healing Ointment. As a journalist, I always search for multiple sources and like to spread the news about my findings.

So, I picked the brains of fellow moms, Skincare Expert Dr. Patricia Treadwell and The National Eczema Association to find out the best ways to treat eczema in infants and toddlers.

What is Eczema?

Eczema is a chronic itchy skin condition. It usually starts within the first five years of life, most often in the first six months. It typically lasts into childhood and adolescence. In some cases adulthood. Some children have very mild eczema and others have severe cases, also known as atopic dermatitis. Children with eczema may be more likely to develop allergies or asthma but one does not cause the other.

“The incidents of eczema in African-American infants is no different from infants in other races. About 15-20 percent of babies have some form of eczema,” Dr. Patricia Treadwell tells Diary of a First Time Mom. “It’s a common occurrence, so pediatricians are familiar with the symptoms and treatments. Parents can take their children to their doctor first, before seeking advice from a specialist. Two-thirds of my patients outgrow eczema after the first year.”

What can trigger a flare up of eczema in my baby?

Eczema flares occur when the skin is very dry, it comes in contact with irritating substances or allergic triggers, or when the skin is infected. Eczema tends to be worse in the winter when the air is dry and tends to improve in the summer when it is more humid. In babies, saliva from drooling may cause additional irritation, particularly to the cheeks, chin and neck. In such cases, applying an ointment like Aquaphor or Vaseline can prevent direct contact with saliva and decrease skin irritation. Specific triggers can vary based on the child and can include pets, carpet, dust mites, fabrics (such as wool), cigarette smoke, and scented products (such as perfume, laundry detergent and air freshener).
 When the skin is infected your pediatrician or dermatologist may have to prescribe an oral antibiotic to improve the eczema.

“I recommend dressing your infant in cotton clothing. Use an unscented laundry detergent and add an extra rinse to the cycle when washing. Extreme heat can cause flare-ups, so make sure your child is dressed appropriately,” says Treadwell.

How do I treat infant and toddler eczema?

“It’s very important to moisturize the skin. Most over-the-counter products will work. It’s a trial and error thing. You should match a brand to your child’s skin based on what works best for them,” says Treadwell. “I typically tell my patients’ parents to start with Vasoline. It’s something their mothers and grandmothers turned to moisturize their skin, and it’s something most people are familiar with.”

According to the National Eczema Association website, parents are often attracted to a moisturizer with “natural” ingredients, but many of these contain plant extracts that can be irritating to sensitive skin.

Scroll down and click page 2 to hear real advice from real moms. 

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About The Author

Vlog Mom/DFTM Creator

Not long ago, Heather Hopson hosted a television show in the Cayman Islands. Today, she's back home writing a different kind of story as a new mom. In her 15 years working as a professional journalist, this by far is her best assignment! Growing up, she dreamed of becoming Oprah Winfrey. She was the features editor for her school’s newspaper and a teen talk show host for her city’s most popular radio station. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Michigan State University. After graduation, she worked as a television producer and reporter at CBS, NBC and Fox affiliates throughout the U.S. Instead of heading to Chicago to join Ms. Winfrey on her set, she bought a plane ticket to the Cayman Islands instead. She arrived five days before a category five hurricane! She lived in paradise for seven years, hosted an award-winning television show and traveled the globe with a government delegation. She also served on the board of directors for Big Brothers Big Sisters and spearheaded a Send a Kid to Camp campaign. Then, she relocated to Washington, D.C. to obtain a teaching certification and instruct 8th grade reading at a high needs middle school. She later returned to her hometown of Pittsburgh, PA to raise her daughter Caitlynn, now 4-years-old. During her 10-month-stint as a stay-at-home mom, Caitlynn inspired her to create this blog, and Diary of a First Time Mom was born on Mother’s Day 2012. Two years later, she expanded the family to include 20+ writers. Currently, Heather serves as the communications director at Allies for Children. In addition, she is the owner of Motor Mouth Multimedia, which ranked #49 in Startup Nation’s Home-Based 100 Competition sponsored by Discover Card and Sam’s Club. Recently, The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments selected Heather to receive an Emerging Black Artist award to develop Diary of a First Time Mom.

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