Six ways to manage dry and itchy skin in babies
Babies have delicate skin, which is sensitive to humidity and changes in the weather.
Most rashes are harmless and go away on their own. However, in some situations, the skin condition can become chronic and difficult to manage. Atopic dermatitis, also called atopic eczema, is one such skin condition that affects one in five children globally.
Atopic dermatitis is long-lasting (chronic) and tends to flare periodically. Often, it appears in infants in the first year of birth and progresses till five years of age and, at times, even beyond. It leads to inflamed and itchy skin, resulting in patches of red and dry skin.
The condition may worsen during colder months. Often, as the child enters teenage, the skin condition persists, affecting daily activities. This leads to a lack of self-confidence, thus impacting the child's overall personality development.
Atopic dermatitis can lead to skin infections, as the dry, inflamed skin results in cracks, causing microbes and irritants to enter the skin. Dryness, itching, cracks, and redness are the common symptoms of atopic dermatitis, which can occur anywhere on the body.
A child whose family member has a history of asthma or allergies is more likely to develop atopic dermatitis. There is a 40-50 per cent probability of a child developing atopic dermatitis if one of her parents also suffered from the condition.
This figure rises to 50-80 per cent when both the parents suffered from the skin condition.
Dr. Rajesh Kumawat, Head-Medical Services & Clinical Development, The Himalaya Drug Company, shares a few tips to combat atopic dermatitis in babies:
Avoid harsh soaps: Use baby washes containing herbal actives, specially formulated for baby's delicate skin. Natural ingredients like Indian aloe (aloe vera), almond oil, milk, and olive oil work together to nourish and maintain the moisture balance of baby's skin.
Avoid hot baths, long showers: Maintain the right water temperature for the baby's bath. Water should be lukewarm, as hot water can make the skin dry. Baby should be bathed for not more than 10 to 15 minutes.
Lightly pat the skin with a towel to remove excess water, and avoid drying the skin completely.
Keep fingernails short: Keep your child's fingernails short and cover itchy areas with a cloth or dressing to prevent scratching that can cause skin irritation and infection.
Moisturise the skin: Immediately apply a gentle and hydrating lotion or cream to moisturise baby's skin immediately after a bath. A good moisturising agent usually consists of natural ingredients such as coconut, kokum, rice, and aloe vera, among others. Moisturising helps hydrate the skin and relieve skin irritation.
Put comfortable dresses: Loose cotton clothing helps keep the baby comfortable, whereas woollen and synthetic fibres may keep baby too warm and worsen the skin condition. Avoid covering the baby in thick blankets/clothes that can cause irritation to sensitive skin.
Avoid harsh chemical products: Choose products that are free from mineral oils, parabens, fragrances and artificial colours. Natural ingredients like kokum and aloe vera are known for their hydrating and moisturising properties. Rice bran extract provides necessary skin components called ceramides, which are essential for maintaining skin barrier function and retaining skin moisture. Coconut has anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce redness and soothe the skin.
Understanding the needs of baby's skin is essential for healthy development, both physical and mental. Any ailment of the skin can affect baby's overall well-being.