Infant Atopic Eczema


With infants, skin problems are quite common. The most common ones are newborn rash and diaper dermatitis. Atopic eczema or atopic dermatitis could be mistaken for newborn rash, but there are several important differences - especially in how long after the birth the rash appears. The newborn rash usually appears somewhere between two weeks and two months of age and is caused by mother´s hormones - that´s why it´s also called infant/newborn acne. Atopic dermatitis appears not sooner than in the third month of a baby´s life. Its manifestation can be various, from areas of dry, reddish skin (usually under knees, on kneck, behind ears, on cheeks etc.) to very dry , irritated or inflammed skin on the whole body. Sometimes skin even starts to peel off.

How to deal with it

In the case of atopic dermatitis, it is essential to use holistic approach. Western medicine tends to heal the skin, but in many cases, patients start to have respiratory problems that can result in asthma. The reason is, that the patient keeps taking in allergen that was causing the eczema. We need to bear in mind that atopic dermatitis is an allergic reaction, just like contact dermatitis. In the latter case, allergen is external and can be easily identified and removed. With atopic dermatitis/eczema, allergen is internal - it is something that we eat, drink or absorb in some way into our system but our body, being allergic to it, tries to get rid of it. And the easiest way is through skin, because it is the larges body organ. But if we suppress the eczema, body will try to find some other way - and most often through our respiratory (or possibly digestive) system. The only way how to deal with the problem is to avoid the allergen.

With babies that are fed with substitute nutrition it is easier to identify the allergen - cow milk protein and cow milk lactose are the most common allergens causing atopic eczema. However, the risk of developing allergies later on is much higher than with breastfed babies.

When a baby is breastfed, it is much more difficult to find the allergen responsible for the eczema. The only possible way is an eliminative diet of a mother. The mother should eliminate all possible allergens from her diet, consuming only 100% safe food like potatoes, rice, carrot (though I´ve met a mother whose child was allergic to carrot and they were able to identify this allergen after four years, because nobody had even thought of it). Be sure to avoid the following:

milk and all milk products, strawberries, all kinds of berries, all citrus fruits, all stone-fruits and all exotic fruit - that is the fruit which is not common in your country, tomatoes, celery, parsley, cauliflower, broccoli ... , fish and all kinds of meat, though poultry is considered to be quite safe, soya-bean and all products made of it, all kinds of nuts, cocoa, all processed food and food containing additives

After four weeks of such radical diet, when the eczema heals, you can start adding new things - one at a time. Try every new component for at least four days and only when there is no negative reaction you can add another one.

To heal the eczema, you might have to use several liniments. Try to use those on natural basis, they have much less side-effects than chemical ones. However, sometimes it is inevitable to use hormonal liniment prescribed by your dermatologist. I have to admit that I didn´t really follow our dermatologist´s advice and used the liniment only once since I had great objections to using any hormonal preparations with an infant, and I used purely natural ointment instead, but I cannot recommend you to do the same. Anyway, follow your instincts, as some dermatologists tend to treat the eczema alone and you need to deal with the allergic cause of it. To do that you might also need to use some antihistaminic preparation suitable for infants. There are some researchers who claim that using small amounts of antihistamine in the first two years of life reduce the chance of developing other allergies later on.

If your baby had the atopic eczema, it is important to be very careful when introducing new foodstuff into his/her diet after the 6th month of age. Basically, follow the same scheme as with the eliminative diet for breastfeeding mothers. And be sure that you start trying the most dangerous foodstuff after the 12th month of age. It is also advisable to introduce flour no sooner than after the 7th month of age, or later.


Comments 21 comments

neenerbeaner 7 years ago

My son, almost 5 months, has been suffering with this condition for the last two. I finally decided to put a little of the steroid ointment the dermatologist gave me these last two days but i have serious concerns about it. I have been trying to do the elimination diet, knowing in my gut this was an alergic reaction. Now that i have the list of possible alergens i can be more thorough. I don't understand why intelligent doctors are only interrested in treating symptoms and without a mention as to WHAT is causing the reaction. If anyone is dealing with this please comment - at this point i need some support.

lenkasvec profile image

lenkasvec 7 years ago from Slovakia Author

Hi, neenerbeaner.

I can understand your situation, I´ve been through that myself with my son. Just don´t panic and be patient. I want to mention one more possible allergen that is not on the list because it is rare - it is gluten that can be found in wheat flour. Try eliminate bread and pasta, too. I found the cause of my son´s ekzema when he was five months old and now when he´s 16 months old he is almost all right. That means that his ekzema shows only sometimes on some parts of his body and it is not serious. Try different ointments, I found the one that helps best with my son only a few months ago. It´s called Skin-cap cream manufactured in Madrid, Spain by the pharmaceutical company Cheminova International. Although I know the main allergens that cause my son´s ekzema, there are probably several others, hidden allergen (different additives f.e.) that I cannot trace. But it gets better with age, don't ´t worry.

sarahb 7 years ago

My son is 14 months now and has had ekzema on his back and a bit on his face since he was 3 months. I am trying to figure out what is the cause of it but not sure how to proceed. From the list of foods you mentioned that should be avoided I am wondering what CAN I feed him and how does one administer such diet to a toddler who loves his food. Is there a gradual way of doing it? Your advice is most welcomed.

lenkasvec profile image

lenkasvec 7 years ago from Slovakia Author

Hi, Sarah.

It is deffinitely more difficult to start elimination diet with a toddler than with a baby who only gets mothrer´s milk. One possible way is to turn the process up side down. Instead of eliminating all possible allergens and eating safe foods only and then adding one new food at a time, you may start eliminating one food at a time. Start with the most common allergens like citruses, chocolate etc. If there is no change lets say after one week, eliminate something else from the list. (that is, if f.e. orange is not the cause, your son can eat it again and you eliminate f.e. chocolate and after a week, if there is no change, you eliminate something else again). This is much lenghtier process, but your son won´t mind it as much as he would with the elimination diet described in the hub. I hope this helps. And there is still one more option whith kids one year and older - go to an allergologist and ask him for a set of tests on all common allergens, not only food but also other types. They may show the real cause quite effectively with older babies (they are not applicable with babies under one year). Good luck!

Sarah 7 years ago

Thanks. I've got the allergy test coming up and have taking out all berries and citrus fruits from his diet. I was also thinking to replace his milk with soya alternative but not sure if I should now take too many things out at once. He doesn't eat chocolate so he won't know what he's missing! Thanks for your reply.

divina 7 years ago

my daughter is having very severe eczema whole over body

lenkasvec profile image

lenkasvec 7 years ago from Slovakia Author

Hi, Divina.

My son had such severe eczema, too. It is inevitable to find out the allergen causimg it. In my son´s case it was milk and milk products and gluten, so I had to stop eating/drinking them and of course I didn´t give him any. He is 18 months old now and he has never eaten/drunk them. Now he is fine. How old is your dauhter?

shiela 7 years ago

I have a son he's 7 months old now He as ecszema since the day he was born. So I was advised to breastfeed but since my milk supply was not enough he still need to take formula. After a month the doctor change his milk to soya and advised us to consult a dermatologist. Hydrocortisone was given for 14 weeks along with moisturising cream and bath cream. After the 14 days his situation got better but redness and itching occurs once in while. What altrenative cream can i use instead of the hydrocortisone?

Part of his diet right now is mixed vegetable infant cereal with caulifrower, corn, carrots, potato and spinach as ingredients. Is it safe for him condidering that cauliflower and corn could be an allergen?

lenkasvec profile image

lenkasvec 7 years ago from Slovakia Author

Hi Shiela,

It is hard to tell which cream to use. For me, the more natural one, the better. There are quite a few products based on herbs and/or minerals - there are several ads on this site, but you will find many more- but you have to try possibly several creams to find the one that will work with your son. I had tried maybe five to six different ointments before I found the best one for my son.

As for the diet, if the situation stays fine, there is no need to eliminate corn or cauliflower. Redness and itching may last for several weeks or even months after eliminating the allergen (in your case it was probably cow milk) - body has to get rid of it completely and it takes time. But if you want to be sure, eliminate cauliflower and corn for a week and you will see if the skin gets better or not.

Good luck!

Jodie 7 years ago

My son has had eczema since he was born, he is now 2-1/2 years old and has had repeated flair ups recently. My main problem is the night time when the itching seems to get worse to the point where his face swells up quite badly, does anyone know of anything i can do to help him sleep better. He only has a sheet on him and thin cotton pyjamas but this isn't helping.

lenkasvec profile image

lenkasvec 7 years ago from Slovakia Author

Hi Jodie,

I am sorry to hear about your son´s problem. I am afraid I am not competent to give any advice in this case. I´ve heard that antihistamin helps to relieve from itching (we used some drops containing antihistamin) but you should definitely consult it with your doctor. Isn´t there anything that your son has tried for the first time recently - some new food, or a new detergent f.e.?

OTmommy profile image

OTmommy 7 years ago from Southern USA

Very thorough hub on eczema. Both of my children have eczema that began as babies. Once we eliminated the foods they were allergic to, the eczema went away. It only returns if they are exposed to an allergen such as dust, cats, or pollen. My daughter has also had a full body reaction to vaccines including eczema from head to toe. Thanks for the information!

lenkasvec profile image

lenkasvec 7 years ago from Slovakia Author

Thanks for your comment. Has your daughter been tested for the allergy on egg white? It is a common ingredient in vaccines and it can cause an allergic reaction. Wish you all the best!

ali 7 years ago

My infant has had atopic dermatitis each and every time he has eaten carrots. So carrot allergy it is. Great article. Thanks for the clarifying info.

Alena from Prague 6 years ago

My daughter developed a rash at 4 weeks old, it started on the cheeks as small pimples (the doctor called it neonatal acne), later these turned into a coarse red area that spread onto the head, where the child developed as large flakes (the doctor said it was seborrhea). In the meantime the red areas on her cheeks peeled off and the cheeks now look normal. But the coarse red area spread onto her back and is now spreading on the limbs, too. It is an area of red, dry skin that appears sensitive to touch, she always cries when I put cream on it etc. She is only 7 weeks old. The dermatologist we saw yesterday said it was seborrhea, but the condition would probably develop into atopic dermatitis later. Is it atopic dermatitis, i.e. an allergic reaction? She is fully breastfed. So should I change my diet, or is it simply infantile seborrhea, which will disappear by itself? The doctor prescribed a strong steroid cream, I applied it on her back for three days, but I did not see an improvement, so I stopped using it and am trying other ways of managing it.

lenkasvec profile image

lenkasvec 6 years ago from Slovakia Author

If I were you, I would definitelly change my diet. Try eliminative diet. I know it is hard eating only one kind of food at a time but it´s worth it. My boy is still sound and healthy but anytime he eats even a bit of something containing gluten his rash re-appears. So, the diet is the only needed treatment. And I would never use steroid cream with a baby. Try Skin-cap, maybe it will help. It alwas works with my son.

Annemarie B 5 years ago

My daughter is 27 months old and has had 2 different allergy tests. Her first test was done @ 4 months, and the second was done just last month. I was EBF her and had to cut out eggs, milk, and soy from my diet. I wonder why none of the other posters have gotten allergy testing.

maria 4 years ago

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lenkasvec 4 years ago from Slovakia Author

In Slovakia they don´t want to do these tests before the fourth year of age if it´s not necessary. I don´t know why.

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lenkasvec 4 years ago from Slovakia Author

Thanks. It´s alarming!

iwonm36 3 years ago

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