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Atopic eczema (which occurs mainly where there is a family history of eczema, asthma or hayfever) is thought to affect one in eight children. It often starts between the ages of two and four months with patches of red, dry and irritable skin on the face or behind the ears, and in the creases of the neck, knees and elbows.

It can be very itchy. This can lead to your baby scratching and the eczema may sometimes become infected. If you think your child has eczema, speak to your GP or health visitor.

Tips on managing eczema

  • Keep your child cool and the bedroom temperature cool.
  • The faeces of the house dust mite can sometimes cause an allergic reaction and make eczema worse.
  • If your child has fluffy or furry toys in the cot or bedroom, the house dust mite collects on them. Limit these toys to one or two favourites, and either wash them weekly at 60oC or put them in a plastic bag in the freezer for 24 hours to kill the house dust mite.
  • Wash your child’s bedlinen at 60oC to kill the house dust mite.

  • Parents sometimes get worried about using topical steroids. However, used properly for short periods they are safe and may prevent the eczema getting worse.
  • Don’t cut out important foods such as milk, dairy products, wheat or eggs without consulting your GP or health visitor. It’s fine to cut out foods such as citrus fruits, juice or tomatoes if you think these are irritating the skin.
  • Don’t let your child’s skin get dry. Apply a moisturising cream or emollient to the skin several times a day. (Try to put some cream on when you feed your baby or change a nappy).
  • Apply the cream with downward strokes – don’t rub it up and down.
  • Avoid using substances that dry or irritate your baby’s skin, such as soap, baby bath, bubble bath, or detergents.
  • Bath your child in cool water with a suitable skin oil added.
  • Aqueous cream which can be bought cheaply from pharmacists is often as effective a moisturiser as more expensive creams. It can also be used for washing instead of soap.
  • Try to identify and avoid anything that irritates the skin or makes the problem worse. For example, soap powder, animals, chemical sprays, cigarette smoke or some clothing.
  • Avoid wool and nylon clothing – cotton is best.

We are indebted to Health Promotion England for their help in compiling this section.