Newborn skin has a lot to cope with. It is making the shift from being in the womb surrounded by water. After birth the baby has to get used to being out in the atmosphere, wearing clothes, being washed. This often means babies can have peeling, dry patches of skin.
The best way to avoid dry skin in small babies is to give their skin time to adjust to the outside world;
- Don’t rush to bath your baby. When you do wash your baby just use plain warm water. Even ‘sensitive’ skin products can be too much for new skin. Stick to just water for the first month.
- Wash baby clothes in ‘non-biological’ detergents and make sure they are rinsed well.
- You don’t need to put anything on the dry skin – it is a stage and it will pass – if you are worried about this you can talk to your pharmacist (find a local pharmacy here).
When patches of dry itchy skin keep appearing it is known as eczema.
About 20% of children will have eczema at some point. It can vary from the occasional ‘patch’ to a condition that causes a lot of discomfort and needs specialist care.
Most children will be free of eczema by the time they are seven. By the age of sixteen 75% of children will have grown out of it.
Keeping the skin moisturised is the best help for eczema symptoms. Emollients (medical moisturisers) are often enough to manage mild to moderate eczema.
- Ask your health visitor, pharmacist, practice nurse or GP for advice on which emollient might be best for you.
- It is usually trial and error to find the one that works best for your child.
- Use at least three times a day including on damp skin after washing.
- Keep using the emollients even when the symptoms have gone away to help prevent it coming back.
Sometimes flare ups need steroid treatment to settle them.
If the skin becomes red and weepy and /or crusty it may be infected - contact your GP for advice.
If the eczema proves hard to manage some children will be referred to a children’s specialist skin doctor (dermatologist).
Keeping the skin well moisturised will help with the itch - but it will also help if;
- You dress your child in loose, natural fabric like cotton. All-in-ones at bedtime can make it harder for your child to scratch in their sleep. Keep fingernails short too.
- Keep their bedroom at a cool temperature.
- Try not to say ‘don’t itch’ which might make the urge to scratch stronger. Distract them with stories and games instead.
- Help them use relaxation techniques – there are lots available online for different age groups.
You might notice that certain things seem to make the eczema worse. You will be able to avoid some of these – like soaps and some washing powders.
If you think it is some foods or drinks that make your child’s eczema worse – discuss this with your GP.
It is not safe to limit your child’s diet because you think they have an allergy without medical advice and support.
Cradle cap is very normal on babies. It is dry skin that affects the scalp and sometimes the forehead and eyebrows. It can look a bit ‘crusty’. It is not itchy or sore.
- Wash your baby’s hair with baby shampoo and rinse really well with clear water.
- Use a baby brush to gently loosen flakes.
- Massage the area with vegetable oil to soften crusts leave overnight and shampoo and rinse well the next day.
Do not pick at the area as this can make it sore and introduce infection.
If it seems to bother your baby and / or you are worried that it is spreading to other parts of the body and / or it looks sore, weepy or inflamed you should call your GP.
Who Can Help?
You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.
If you are 11-19 you can text ChatHealth on 07480635060 for confidential advice from one of our team.
You can speak to other Norfolk parents and carers by clicking our online community forum below.