October is Eczema Awareness Month, and Ready, Set Food! is here to help with tips for your baby’s eczema care. In the winter, when the air outside is cold and dry, you might notice that your little one’s skin flares up more than usual. How to manage your baby’s eczema in the winter? We've got you covered with our cold-weather tips.
Managing your baby’s eczema can be challenging at any time of the year. But in the winter, when the air outside is cold and dry, you might notice that your little one’s skin flares up even more. Running the heat in your house can lead to dry air inside, too – meaning even more chances of pesky flares.
Why does this happen? All this dryness in the air means it's even harder than usual for your baby’s skin to hold in moisture. The less humidity there is in the air, the more likely it is to make your baby’s skin flare up.
And sometimes, it's not just about the dry air. Increased exposure to dust and germs can also cause eczema to flare up more frequently in winter.
Many children have the hardest time with their eczema flares in the winter, so you and your baby are not alone. How to manage your baby’s eczema this winter? We've got you covered with our cold-weather tips.
1. Moisturize more often.
If the winter air causes more flares, that usually means your baby’s skin needs to be moisturized more often. This includes applying moisturizer right before your baby goes out in the cold, every time they go out. Also, you should always moisturize baby’s skin before you put baby to bed.
Baby’s hands and face will need moisturizer most, since they are most exposed to the elements. And be sure to put a dedicated moisturizer on your little one’s lips.
Sometimes, it helps if you switch to a heavier-duty moisturizer during the winter months. Ointments tend to be heavier-duty than creams. And oil-based moisturizers (like coconut oil) tend to hold moisture in the skin more effectively. Moisturizers with ceramides are also a good choice to hold in more moisture, as they mimic the skin's natural barrier.
If your baby needs moisturizer at any time other than right after a bath, be sure to spritz your baby’s skin with water before you apply the moisturizer. Spritzing will help add moisture back to the skin, and the moisturizer will seal the moisture in.
2. Add humidity to the air.
You might already use a humidifier in your baby's room overnight, to cut down on overnight flares. But in the winter, when there's less moisture in the air, it helps to run the humidifier more frequently (if your dermatologist gives the okay). This will add back the needed air moisture and make your baby more comfortable.
If you don't already have a humidifier, you can place bowls of water in each room to help add more moisture into the air. Just be sure to change the water every day, so bacteria does not build up. And make sure the bowls are out of baby’s reach.
3. Keep skin temperature as consistent as you can.
Sudden changes in temperature, like entering the warm house on a cold day, can make your baby itchy. That temperature change is hard to avoid. But when your baby is in the house, try to keep your baby’s skin temperature consistent and avoid constant moves from hot to cold.
- All rooms of the house should stay at the same temperature (comfortable but not overly warm). 65-69 degrees Fahrenheit is a good temperature range in winter.
- Make sure your baby isn’t too close to heaters or fireplaces (this is both a safety precaution and a way to avoid flares).
- Place a cotton wearable blanket on baby while they sleep, over loose-fitting cotton pajamas. Don’t dress baby in too many layers for sleep.
- Only give baby warm baths – never give hot baths. (Again, this is both a safety precaution and a way to avoid flares.)
4. Pick your baby’s clothing wisely.
The best material for clothing doesn't change in winter – cotton is always best for children with eczema. Avoid wool and synthetic fabrics, which can lead to flare-ups.
Dressing your baby in several layers of cotton clothing means it's easier to adjust their outfit for the temperature as needed. If your baby starts to get too hot, you can unzip a jacket or remove a layer. That way, they won't overheat or sweat too much – heat and sweat are two of the most common flare triggers. Flares are more likely to happen when a baby wears a single heavy layer.
Cotton mittens or gloves, with moisturized hands underneath, are also a great option. The gloves help protect your little one's hands from the dry air.
5. Give your baby plenty to drink.
Keeping your baby hydrated helps their skin stay hydrated. This means feeding breastfed babies on demand, giving formula-fed babies plenty to drink, and giving small amounts of water to babies over 6 months of age (as a supplement to breastmilk or formula).
For toddlers, give water frequently. That's the healthiest drink, and the best for hydration, once a child has stopped drinking breastmilk or formula. Toddlers ages 1-3, who are no longer breastfeeding or formula feeding, need at least 4 cups of water per day.
6. Know what to do about snow.
If you take your baby outside in the snow, dress them in warm cotton layers that cover as many parts of the body as possible, just like you would on any winter day. This includes a hat, and gloves or mittens, made from cotton.
Once you bring baby inside, get any wet clothing off immediately, and replace it with a dry set of cotton clothes.
7. Stick to your baby’s eczema routine.
In the winter, it's more important than ever to give your baby a daily bath in warm water. Moisturize their skin immediately after the bath, and anytime their skin is dry, itchy, or flaring.
In addition, be sure to avoid cleansers, shampoos, lotions, and detergents that contain fragrances or dyes. Stick to gentle options that are fragrance-free and dye-free. And always avoid soaps (gentle cleansers are much less irritating).
8. Consider wet wrap therapy.
If you've tried the other techniques and the winter air still makes your baby's skin flare up, try wet wrap therapy to add moisture back to their skin.
After you've bathed them and moisturized their skin, dress your baby in damp, cotton pajamas (or a wet dressing). Then, put dry pajamas on over this "wet wrap." Leave the wrap on for at least 2 hours, or overnight if you've chosen to do wet wrap therapy before bed.
For a step-by-step guide to wet wrap therapy, please read our previous article.
9. Ditch the dust with regular cleaning.
If dust and indoor allergens trigger your little one's eczema, it's important to stay vigilant with cleaning since your baby will be inside more often in winter. Dust hard surfaces, wash bedding often with gentle detergent, and vacuum frequently (this includes vacuuming the curtains and rugs).
You might also consider setting up an air purifier system in baby’s bedroom, to help remove the allergens that cause flares.
10. Practice good hygiene, and stay away from people who are sick.
Good hygiene is always important, but even more vital in winter when colds and flu run rampant. If someone gets a cold, the flu, or another viral illness, they can spread staph bacteria more readily (which can contact the skin of someone with eczema). And staph infections can make someone's eczema worse.
So, keep your baby away from people who are sick, and make sure your family washes their hands regularly with an eczema-friendly cleanser.
11. Talk to your doctor or dermatologist.
If your baby still has lots of winter flares, talk to your baby’s doctor or dermatologist. They may give you more skin care tips tailored to your baby’s needs, or even prescribe a topical eczema treatment for the winter months. If your baby is prescribed any type of eczema medicine, always follow your doctor's directions for how much and how often you should apply it.
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