Unfortunately, doctors do not know what causes that disease. It is only known that it is allergy-related (food, airborne or contact). Besides, it can also be a genetic condition. If somebody in your family suffers from atopic dermatitis or allergy, the possibility that your baby will also suffer from that condition increases. It is a chronic and onerous disease, both for your baby and for you (baby care requires a lot of time and patience), but its symptoms can be soothed. Atopic dermatitis does not usually recede before 2nd year of life. Even when the symptoms weaken, it does not mean the disease has receded. Unfortunately, in some children the disease persists even until 12th year of life (juvenile atopic dermatitis), although that happens very rarely.
Certainly, you are not able to diagnose it yourself. A rash that may develop already in 2nd - 3rd month of life does not really have to mean AD. You should will need a medical consultation. Maybe, before the specialist is able to diagnose the condition, a longer than you expected observation of your baby will be necessary. Below I have listed signs that may indicate AD. When you observe them, arrange to see a doctor. The atopic skin is characterised by lipid deficiency. What does that mean? It lacks components that protect and strengthen epidermis. In consequence, the skin is weakened and the following changes may occur:
- thick, callous skin with enlarged pores
- frequent skin chafes, abrasions, irritations under a diaper
- dark spots in the crook of the elbow
- dry flaking patches on hands, legs, back and bottom
- pruritus around wrists, in the crook of the elbow, under the knees
- blisters with fluid oozing (symptom of untreated infection)
- small bumps on hands and legs (around hair)
- rash on the cheeks, characteristic blush (as if cheeks were varnished red)
- shades under eyes
- a fold under the bottom lid
- a child may be cranky, scratch itself and sleep badly.
Untreated skin lesions will progress. Do everything possible to bring relief to your baby. Therefore:
1. For a baby with AD "rituals" are of great importance. You may think: "as for any small child but what has it to do with preventing aggravation of AD symptoms?" Rituals, i.e., fixed points in the day, like: fixed times for meals, play, bath or going to sleep make a child feel safe. He is less exposed to stress! It is very important, as it very often may aggravate dermatitis symptoms! During an upsetting situation increased itching may occur. Unfortunately, also positive situations causing sudden strong emotions may have similar consequences. Therefore, the fixed schedule helps to combat this onerous ailment.
2. Diet. Many children with AD are allergic to products such as: cow's milk, nuts, citruses, tomatoes, wheat, fish. Maintaining a proper diet recommended by the doctor helps to avoid complications and aggravation of symptoms.
3. Short baths. A long bath may cause drying of skin, therefore the baby should not be in the bath for more than 10 minutes. Moreover, you should use special formulations (emollients) developed for infants with AD, and not normal soap. Why? Those formulations help to keep skin hydrated and eliminate itching, destroy bacteria, regenerate, because they contain natural lipids. Normal soap would make the baby's skin dry. Remember, water in the bathtub should be lukewarm! Hot water may intensify symptoms, and you want to avoid that. And the last tip concerns drying of the sensitive skin. Do not rub but touch the baby's body with a towel, so as not to aggravate irritations.
4. Use creams and ointments. To bring relief to the irritated skin of your baby, apply creams and ointments. What is a difference between those two formulations? Creams are used during the day, because they are not so greasy as ointments, and are absorbed faster. Ointments, due to their texture, should be used for the night. You should remember to apply the cream to dry places a few times during the day. Why? It will make your baby's skin more resistant to any damage and wil reduce itching. Creams alleviate symptoms but they will not heal atopic dermatitis. You should definitely apply creams immediately after a bath. At that time the skin absorbs the substances better. Consult a doctor which formulations you should buy. Discuss again how to use them. If no improvement is seen in the condition of the skin, the formulation should be replaced with another, maybe having a stronger effect. Formulations based on lanolin, paraffin and petrolatum are the best. Those formulations should not be scented.
5. Choose appropriate clothes. Choose clothes made from natural fabrics. Additionally, you may put the underwear (the closest to the skin) inside out. Why? If the skin is in bad condition, seams may irritate it even more. The same applies to labels. On purchasing new underwear, simply remove them. Buy cotton gloves for the night because then you cannot control whether the baby scratches itself.
6. Avoid smoke, dust and overheating. All those may contribute to skin irritation. To eliminate dust in the flat, I would recommend getting rid of carpets (especially thick ones) and curtains. Concerning smoke, do not light any candles at home and ensure nobody smokes at your place. Air the flat regularly. When the heating starts, ensure adequate air humidity. Hot and dry air will aggravate the symptoms.
7. Avoid unnecessary experiments. Weak skin does not like failed trials and mistakes. Do not change unnecessarily cosmetics, cleaning agents (washing powder) or the underwear brand, purchased so far. Buy verified high quality products, possibly, recommended by the doctor or another mum.