Five things you can do to protect your child’s skin this winter

The exact cause of eczema is not known, but a drop in temperatures can make skin susceptible

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According to the Irish Skincare Foundation, eczema affects 1 in 5 children in Ireland, and this tends to flare up in the first six months of life. When preparing for your winter baby’s arrival, the last thing you need to worry about is protecting their skin from eczema flare-ups in colder months.

While the exact cause of eczema is not known, an extreme drop in temperature, dry central heating and low humidity indoors, can dry-out your child’s skin and make it more susceptible to damage when you do go outdoors.

Here are a few things you can do to manage your child’s skin this winter:

1 Get a reasonably priced room thermometer and make sure the space where your baby sleeps is not too hot. If your new baby is prone to eczema, dry heat will aggravate the skin and make eczema worse. Keep the room where baby sleeps at night between 18-20 degrees, this will prevent skin from drying out.

2 It’s fine to bathe baby every day, however, 5-7 minutes is enough. I always recommend taking all soaps and harsh chemicals out of your home. Using a soap-free wash to bathe your child is important, particularly if there is a family history of atopy such as hay fever, asthma or eczema. Ensure that bath water is warm, not hot. For toddlers and older children, avoid using electric blankets and hot water bottles, as these are actually one of the greatest irritants to eczema.

3 Dry skin gets itchy. To soothe the itch, you should over-moisturise the child’s skin, it is so important to remember this, even if the skin does not appear dry. Take moisturiser with you everywhere and increase the number of times you moisturise your child’s skin each day.

4 I discourage new parents from using baby wipes, regardless of the product description. Packaging can often mislead parents into thinking that a solution soaked wipe will hydrate baby’s dry skin, However, if your baby’s skin is prone to dryness, the wipe will dry the skin out 10-fold. This is due to some wipes being produced with synthetic fabrics which aggravate the skin and the solution in which the fabric is soaked is often laced with harsh chemicals. I find a simpler method to carry out nappy hygiene for sensitive babies is to tear off cotton wool with something super gentle like the Baby Bath from Irish skincare company, Elave, or Silcock’s from a squeezable tube.

5 Finding the right emollient for your child might be a matter of trial and error. Your healthcare professional will be able to advise on the different emollient products available. Always use a nappy cream that is free from parabens, preservatives and fragrances. I always recommend natural creams and emollients to new parents. One great product that I recommend time and time again is the nappy cream from Elave. The nappy cream and baby bath are both certified natural and organic, they take care of dryness or red patches, and are paediatrician approved from newborn.

If your child develops a rash suddenly and is unwell they need to be seen by a doctor. Eczema, when infected either virally or bacterially also needs to be assessed by a doctor as the child can become unwell and possibly require treatment with antibiotics and/or anti-viral medications. It is so important to seek a diagnosis if you are worried about your child’s skin. Your GP will be able to provide a diagnosis and can talk to you about the most suitable treatment for your baby.

Selene Daly is a dermatology nurse specialist based at Sligo University Hospital

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