4 baby skin condition questions, solved by our health visitor

Rashes, spots and dry skin - all signs of skin conditions. Our health visitor answers your questions on your baby's skin...

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1) Does my baby have eczema?

Q. I think my baby is developing eczema. He has dry patches on his face and behind his knees and the skin looks sore. How can we help keep it healthy?

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A. The dry patches you describe do sound like eczema. One of the simplest ways to relieve symptoms is to keep skin very clean to prevent bacteria causing infection to any broken areas, and to keep the skin continually hydrated.

Visit your GP, who can confirm your little one’s skin condition. Your doctor will also be able to prescribe special oils for bath time, and suitable creams or emulsifying ointments to relieve dry skin symptoms and keep his skin moist.

2) Constant nappy rash

Q. My baby seems to have nappy rash all the time. Why does this happen and what can I do to prevent it?

A. Most babies will get nappy rash from time to time. It’s most commonly caused by the skin being in prolonged contact with ammonia from urine and bacteria from stools. Together these combine to burn and irritate the skin, causing it to break down.

Other factors include ill-fitting nappies rubbing against the skin, strong soaps, bubble baths and detergents, baby wipes with alcohol, or if your baby is suffering from diarrhoea and illness. The best way to treat it is to change a wet or dirty nappy as soon as you can, and then clean the area thoroughly, especially cracks and creases. Plain water is probably best for a few days. Remember to dry your baby carefully, too. At as many nappy changes as is reasonable, expose your little one’s nappy area to the air. You can try using a barrier cream to protect if you like, too.

Very frequent applications of skin creams (five to six times a day) are essential to lock moisture in and help to reduce scratching, so skin can recover. Try combining treating the skin with nappy changing as a helpful memory prompt.

When babies have sensitive skin, using a non-biological washing powder for all family washing is also helpful as well as dressing little ones in loose cotton clothing.

3) Rash – or thrush?

Q. My baby keeps getting nappy rash and a friend suggested it could be thrush. Is she right?

A. It’s normal for your baby to get nappy rash from time to time. It’s most commonly caused by digesting enzymes in her stools irritating her skin, and can be aggravated by the ammonia in her urine coming into contact with the bacteria in her stools. The easiest prevention is to change her nappy as soon as it’s wet or soiled. This may be up to 10 times a day for small babies, and up to eight times for older ones.

However, your friend is right, if it doesn’t clear up it could be thrush, which is a more persistent rash of red patches in the groin area. It’s caused by a yeast infection settling on inflamed skin and is often more likely to occur if your baby has oral thrush, or if either of you is taking antibiotics. Your GP will prescribe an anti-fungal cream, which will quickly clear it up.

4) Treating cradle cap

Q. Can cradle cap harm my baby?

A. Cradle cap (know as seborrhoeic dermatitis) is a very common skin condition affecting newborns to toddlers. Glands on the scalp produce too much oil, which dries to form flaky, crusty patches. It typically appears on the scalp, face, neck and behind the ears. Parents worry because it looks odd on their lovely baby, but it‘s harmless. No matter how long it lasts there’s no long-term effect on the skin or hair growth.

The best treatment is to stimulate the scalp with regular head-brushing with a soft baby brush, even if she has no hair. This stimulates the scalp to knock off dead cells and flakes and removes excess oil.

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If the head is particularly crusty, gently massage some olive oil into the scalp in the evening, leave on overnight and brush the head in the morning before washing the area with a mild shampoo.

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