Tips for Managing Baby’s Eczema During the Summer
Whether you’re new to baby eczema or you’ve lived with it for a few seasons, you might already be thinking about the dreaded heat that comes with summer. Rightfully so as the hot months bring about unique challenges for eczema-prone babies and their parents. I know what you’re thinking - as if you’re not already completely overwhelmed and as if your little one needs any more eczema triggers. Alas, it’s all part of the journey.
There are several important factors to keep in mind as you’re planning your skin management routine during the summer. But before we get to those, one of the biggest culprits contributing to eczema in the summer is simply sweating. Sweat creates a favorable environment for bacteria on the baby’s skin, which in turn, leads to itching. So your first order of business should be keeping your baby out of the heat, especially out of direct sunlight where there is no breeze or shade for them to get some relief.
Sunscreen or no?
If you’re feeling weird about putting sunscreen on your baby’s irritated and sensitive skin, you’re not alone. However, as with everything else, there is a balance between adapting to the environment and making sure your baby stays safe and comfortable. The National Eczema Association does recommend putting sunscreen on babies older than 6 months - but with a few caveats. Make sure to do a patch test the day before spreading the product all over the baby’s body. You’re going to also want to look thoroughly through the ingredients to make sure you’re looking out for known allergies, picking a product with mineral-based ingredients such as titanium dioxide (TiO2) and zinc oxide (ZnO), and choosing one that is alcohol-free. Remember that not all products are created equal. Here’s a helpful list of brands that have NEA’s Seal of Acceptance.
What’s the dress code?
I don’t know about you, but I dread summer - not just because it creates additional obstacles for my son, but because on top of it all his exposed skin inevitably brings about questions and raised eyebrows from curious bystanders (how I respond to these inquiries will be a separate blog post soon). Therefore, I try to find a balanced solution to the problem - making sure that baby doesn’t overheat but can also make friends and not alarm others at the playground (this very much depends on how extensive and visible your kiddo’s eczema is). My son is very curious about other children and often comes up to them at the park, excited to engage and share toys with them. In the colder months, the eczema on his legs and arms is covered up and most people assume that the rash on his cheeks is some kind of allergy. I’ve done extensive research on summer clothing and here’s what I look for when I’m picking out his clothes:
Light, breathable fabrics (extra points for GOTS and OEKO-TEX® certifications)
Roomy design that doesn’t cling to his skin and allows for extra ventilation
Various lengths to mix and match depending on where the skin is flared-up
Pro hack: soft, breathable bandanas to wrap around leg or arm if baby starts to suddenly scratch (I wrap it several times around the area and rush home to cool off!)
Sandals to keep the footsies cool
Pollen, the invisible enemy!
If you’re in the middle of a city like Los Angeles or New York and you’re not affected by seasonal allergies, you’ve probably never thought twice about pollen. In fact, most adults don’t. However, eczema-prone babies are extremely sensitive to their environments and any added allergens, and many can and will react when the level of pollen in the air is above average. So if you’re going for a stroll or heading out of town for a weekend in the woods, check the pollen levels in your area (I found a nifty tool here). If they’re high, it doesn’t mean you can’t go out - just be prepared with swaddles, band-aids and whatever else you may need in case your baby has a flare-up.
The name of the game is “distraction”
I read a lot of testimonials from other moms of eczema babies and one thing is for certain - when a flare-up comes on suddenly (as they often do), your best bet is to distract the baby until the initial itching subsides. Toys, your phone, Peppa the Pig (or Baby Shark, pick your poison), a handful of crackers or your car keys - whatever works for your kiddo. Mine is obsessed with cars and trucks so I always have one or two on hand in case he starts itching while we’re out. I’ve learned time and time again that my child will not let go of his precious truck toy no matter how itchy his leg is. In a world where your job as their parent is to protect their skin from being damaged, it’s about all you can do in that moment.
Finally, I always carry a peppermint essential oil spray with me and when all else fails, I spray a little on the affected area to give him some relief. It doesn’t last long but it gives him a cool feeling that brings down the itch. Before you do the same, talk to your doctor, of course.
Most importantly, try to find moments to enjoy your baby. The mental load that comes with being a parent to an eczema baby is very real and it is exhausting. There will be moments when despite all of it you’re out in the sun, baby’s not itchy, and for a moment everything is as it should be - or should have been when you imagined becoming a mom or dad. Try to make those moments the memories you’ll carry with you.
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