What Risks Are Associated With Eczema?

Risks Associated with Eczema

“Baby eczema” is a term sometimes used to describe the most common chronic type of eczema when it appears first in infancy.  Of new cases of eczema, 65% are diagnosed in babies less than one year of age. It is this age group of eczema suffers that are the most difficult to treat, and for which the risks are the most serious.

Though there are many different forms of eczema, the term is commonly used in reference to the most common chronic form: atopic dermatitis.  Known for periods of distressful symptoms (called “flare ups”) alternating with periods of remission, this form of eczema begins in response to an irritant.  With baby eczema, symptoms typically first begin at 2-4 months of age.  For reasons we’re not yet sure of, common items such as soaps, detergents, and rough clothing bring on an exaggerated reaction in these infants, leading to a scaly, intensely itchy rash.  Breakouts may be widespread, affecting large areas of the body or smaller areas on the face, hands, feet, bends of the arms, and backs of the knees.  It is often the crankiness of the infant, along with the cracked, oozing skin that sends parents to the pediatrician for answers.

Risks to Eczema

The highest risk to eczema suffers of all ages is the risk of infection.  The itching caused by eczema is extreme, and it is particularly challenging to prevent an infant from scratching.  Continuous scratching can break the skin’s surface and provide a portal of entry for germs.  Moisture from drool and wet diapers provides an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, and the result may be a serious skin infection.  Left untreated, the infection can cause skin damage or a potentially life threatening blood infection (sepsis).

It can be difficult to prevent flare ups and control distressful symptoms, particularly in babies who cannot voice discomfort.  Strategies such as limiting exposure to extremes in temperature, reducing bathing to every 2-3 days, and identifying and controlling exposure to triggers can help control outbreaks.  Irritation can be reduced by washing the infants clothing and bedding in a mild detergent and by double rinsing.  Covering the infants hands can prevent scratching, and daily applications of a non-irritating lotion, cream or ointment can reduce itching and prevent cracking.  Frequent washing of the hands of both infant and caregiver can help prevent infection.

Eczema Medications needed

In some cases, medications may be recommended or prescribed to help reduce inflammation, and to provide relief from itching and scratching.   As with all medication, “over the counter” and prescription medications for eczema require special precautions when administered to infants.   Many infants will outgrow baby eczema.  Some do not.  A qualified pediatrician or dermatologist can help parents in forming a treatment for eczema plan to reduce risks and promote comfort.