Hi. I’m Rod Phillips and I’ve agreed to write some articles about your babies, children and sleeping. I’m a children’s skin specialist and it’s amazing how many aspects of your child’s health and upbringing can impact on sleeping and family well-being. Because this is Eczema Awareness Month, I thought I would start with some information about eczema on the cheeks.
Cheek and face eczema is common in babies, particularly between the ages of 3-12 months. You can recognize this when cheeks are rough and dry and red. In more severe cases, there can even be weeping and crusting on the cheeks. And poor sleeping! Babies with troublesome eczema sleep poorly due to the discomfort and itch.
So what can you do?
Firstly, fix any environmental factors that might be contributing. Use clothing and sleeping made with a smooth weave from natural fibres like cotton. Watch out for rough materials that might be coming into contact with the cheeks – for example, when adults cuddle your child while they are wearing coats or jumpers made from a coarse material, this can irritate the baby cheeks.
Use gentle products for washing. Most babies can be washed just with water, both for their skin and their hair.
Avoid potentially irritating chemicals: avoid fragrances, avoid perfumes. Use bland products without a smell.
Secondly, consider whether food allergy might be playing a role. Is the eczema much worse immediately after certain foods. Food allergy is unlikely to be significant for these babies. They rarely need to avoid any foods.
Thirdly, moisturize the cheeks. Use a bland non-fragrant moisturizer, ideally without herbal components.
Fourthly, treat the cheeks with a medicine ointment. Over-the-counter hydrocortisone ointment from the chemist is often all you need to get the cheeks clear. Sometimes more effective ointments are needed and can be prescribed by your doctor.
In the attached photo, this baby has cheek eczema. He isn’t sleeping at night. The parents are frazzled and exhausted. There is evidence of weeping and some crusting on the cheek. There will always be some secondary infection of the cheeks in a situation like this. However, usually the cheeks will rapidly clear with appropriate eczema treatment as above, without needing any antibiotics either topically on the cheeks or taken by mouth as a syrup.
Within days, normal sleep patterns should be restored.