‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’ is a saying that many of us find to be true, from experience.
Fifty years ago, only one in ten Australian children developed eczema before the age of two.
Today, nearly one in every four children under the age of two has an eczema diagnosis.
Infant eczema has seen a rapid increase, which can be attributed to lifestyle, nutritional, hygiene and genetic factors.
Understanding eczema as a skin condition is very important. Not only will we discover what triggers eczema flare-ups but we’ll also learn about skin irritants, how to avoid skin damage and how to ease skin inflammation when it occurs.
Although we cannot change our genetics, the good news is we have a lot of control over our lifestyle, nutrition and hygiene.
What is eczema?
Eczema is a term used to describe a chronic skin condition that causes dry, red and itchy skin, sometimes with bumps produced by inflammation. This inflammation is often caused by allergies, sensitivities and environmental irritants.
If not kept under control, eczema can cause skin infections.
The most common kind of eczema is known as atopic dermatitis.
Dermatitis means skin inflammation.
What causes infant eczema?
Inflammation is the body’s way of healing and protecting itself. When the threat comes from the outside, it’s the skin’s role as a barrier that protects us. Unfortunately, the body can react to non-threats, too, with inflammation causing irritated skin and allergic reactions, such as eczema.
If eczema runs in your family, your baby is more likely to develop eczema than other babies whose families didn’t have eczema as children.
If you or your partner had eczema as a child, it doesn’t mean your baby will definitely get it. At the same time, your baby can develop eczema even if it doesn’t run in the family.
2. Dry skin
Having dry skin is the number one of all eczema triggers – and the easiest to avoid. Even severe eczema can be kept at bay by avoiding dry skin.
Once dry, the skin barrier can’t work as effectively and the child’s skin will become itchy and irritated much more easily.
And then, as we all know, it goes downhill from there, as the itchy rash usually pushes the person to scratch and make the eczema worse.
Many daily-use products are full of chemicals and can become major irritants to sensitive skin. Shampoos, detergents, dyes or certain fibers might irritate the child’s skin and cause a flare-up.
4. Environmental factors
Weather conditions, air pollution and local conditions can also cause the skin to dry up quickly.
Moisturizing the skin frequently will help keep the skin from drying out under the conditions established by specific environmental triggers.
Various allergies and sensitivities can trigger the body to react with skin inflammation.
At the same time, with some severe food allergies, when a person has consumed the allergen and kisses or touches the baby, it can cause an allergic reaction in the baby’s skin.
It’s not easy to prevent allergens from making contact with your baby. If you notice your baby’s skin developing a rash after being in contact with a person the child isn’t usually in contact with, it might be due to a food allergy your child has. Ask about what the person ate before meeting with you and your baby and rule out those foods you usually have at home.
Help with baby eczema
Sometimes we struggle with eczema flare-ups on baby’s skin and we don’t know how to deal with it or how to treat eczema on our little one’s sensitive skin.
There are different treatments for eczema rash or child’s eczema. Let’s look at how to prevent eczema flare-ups.
How to prevent baby eczema
The best way to prevent atopic dermatitis in our babies is to start as soon as possible. Don’t wait for the first flare-up to appear. What if it were possible to correct certain habits during pregnancy that could lead to a child being born eczema free?
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are live ‘good’ bacteria and yeast. They are found in supplements, yogurts and fermented foods.
Scientists and medical professionals are still learning about the connection between our gut health and our immune system function. Current research shows a strong correlation between the presence or absence of certain microbes in our gut and allergic diseases. As we continue to learn more, we are discovering that poor gut health might play a significant role in the increased incidence of eczema.
How can probiotics help prevent eczema?
Probiotics, the living ‘good’ bacteria, can help our bodies function properly. The right balance of good bacteria in our system helps our digestion and our immune system. When our digestion is off and when our immune system is off we see our body react with inflammation, such as eczema.
Genetics, our diet, and our lifestyle can impact our gut health. Processed foods, sugars and over consumption of grains can affect the digestive system. When we do not consume foods with probiotics, such as fermented or cultured foods, our systems might not have a proper balance of good bacteria.
Our frequent use of antibiotics also affects our gut health. The use of antibiotics can be a lifesaving medical intervention. Antibiotics work by killing off bacteria. This is great for eliminating bacteria that are causing an infection; unfortunately, they also kill the good bacteria our system needs to function properly.
Probiotics help to restore the proper balance of good bacteria. When we have a good balance of bacteria we reduce the risk of overall inflammation and sensitivities, which reduces our risk of eczema.
How to prevent eczema in babies while you’re pregnant
Taking probiotics during pregnancy can make a big difference to a baby’s skin.
When a baby is born, the maternal flora will be in charge of colonizing the baby.
When a pregnant woman looks after her gut flora, she’s looking after her unborn baby’s too. Once the bag of waters breaks, the baby will be colonized by a vast number of bacteria and most of them comes from the mother.
Research has shown that pregnant women can actually help prevent eczema in their babies.
How effective are probiotics for reducing eczema?
A recently published meta-analysis in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found probiotics measurably reduced the risk of infant eczema.
- When mothers took probiotics during their third trimester, they reduced their baby’s risk of eczema by 29%
- Breastfeeding mothers who took probiotics reduced their baby’s risk of eczema by 40%
- When infants were given probiotics directly, their risk of developing eczema was reduced by 20%.
Why is reducing eczema so important?
Although eczema might not seem like a serious condition, it is a very problematic one. With the risk of eczema more than doubling in the last fifty years, it is important we find ways to reduce the incidence of this medical condition.
Eczema flares can be extremely itchy and uncomfortable. They can even become painful when the skin becomes so dry that it cracks. For some, the visible signs of eczema leave them feeling socially vulnerable and insecure. Families dealing with eczema often experience stress as they try to figure out triggers, diets and environmental irritants.
Eczema can be a chronic condition that has an effect on everyday life.
The recent research on eczema and probiotics provides a lot of hope for growing families with a history of eczema. Probiotics are inexpensive and have little to no risk. Taking them is a simple step providers can recommend, to help reduce the risk of eczema.
Even when precautions are taken, unfortunately, some children will still have to battle eczema. It isn’t always easy to deal with, but there are things we can do to help deal with it. A clean diet, natural hygiene products, and other simple steps can help manage eczema.
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