If your child’s been diagnosed with eczema, you might feel frustrated, confused and a little helpless. But you’re not alone. At least 10% of infants have atopic eczema (atopic is the term given to ‘allergic’ conditions such as hay fever, asthma and this type of eczema, the most common in babies and children).
The chronic, inflamed rash it creates on your little one’s delicate skin can be upsetting for both of you, and the conflicting advice on what you can and can’t do about it doesn’t help. So, we talk to the experts to bust some of those myths…
There are several different types of eczema, the most common being atopic eczema
Myth 1: “It’s an allergic reaction”
Not true, says Margaret Cox from the National Eczema Society: “Eczema is not an allergic reaction, though flare-ups can be triggered by things like dust mites, perfumed soaps and pollen.
“Skin affected by eczema tends to be dry and produce less fat and oils than normal skin,” continues Margaret. “This makes its protective barrier less effective, allowing bacteria, allergens and irritants to pass through the skin more easily, making it red and inflamed. That’s why the products to treat eczema rehydrate and lock moisture into the skin, while keeping the barrier more intact, so fewer irritants and allergens can invade.”
In the UK, 1.7 million children have eczema
Myth 2: “It’s contagious”
Because eczema can look unsightly, many people assume it’s infectious – this is one of the reasons many children with eczema get bullied. But it’s certainly not ‘catching’.
It is something that tends to run in families, however, says Bevis Man from the British Skin Foundation. “If one or both parents suffer from eczema, asthma or hay fever, it is more likely their children will suffer too,” he says.
Your baby needs to be correctly latched on to your nipple and breast to feed successfully.
Myth 3: “It’s because I didn’t breastfeed”
“Research shows that exclusively breastfeeding your baby for the first four to six months can reduce the chances of eczema, but bottle-feeding your baby will not have caused your baby’s eczema,” says Dr Adam Fox, consultant in paediatric allergy at St Thomas’ hospital, London.
Myth 4: “Daily baths will aggravate eczema”
Daily bathing is fine as long as you keep things simple, says Bevis Man. Make use of the special emollients that are on sale for bathing with eczema. “Heat can often trigger flare-ups, so use warmer, rather than hot, water. Avoid bubble baths and soaps that can strip the skin’s natural oils – use a soap substitute,” he says.