As the number of children who develop eczema grows, so do the studies looking for ways to prevent it. Since it’s a hereditary condition, more people want to prevent their kids from developing the same skin disease.
So far, nothing can guarantee that your child won’t develop atopic dermatitis, the most common form of eczema. However, making some lifestyle changes may help reduce your child’s risk.
Here is what researchers have discovered that parents can do to reduce the risk of eczema for children:
For many years, findings from studies indicate that breastfeeding has no effect on whether a child may develop atopic dermatitis. Recently, that has changed.
A study found that breastfeeding may help newborns at high risk of developing atopic dermatitis.
A child has a high risk of developing atopic dermatitis when a parent or sibling has one or more of these diseases: asthma, atopic dermatitis, and hay fever.
In this study, breastfeeding a high-risk newborn can reduce the baby’s chance of developing atopic dermatitis by 33%. The researchers also discovered that breastfeeding a child with a high risk of developing atopic dermatitis can help protect them from developing severe AD.
Mothers must breastfeed the baby at least four to six months (or even more) to lower the risk of eczema for babies. The findings also suggest that babies must only take breastfeed only for the first four months of life to reduce the risk of developing AD. The risk increases when babies were fed solid food before four months of age.
So, to prevent your child’s risk of developing atopic dermatitis, breastfeed your baby for the first four months of life. Besides preventing eczema, you can also strengthen your child’s immune response and prevent many other diseases.
Eating a healthy diet during pregnancy and nursing
There is no particular diet or magic food you can eat to prevent a fetus from developing atopic dermatitis. But recent findings suggest that mothers-to-be must pay close attention to what they are eating and drinking.
Mothers-to-be, especially those who developed eczema when young or still have eczema, must eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, and vitamin D to reduce their child’s risk of developing a skin condition.
After looking at findings from 42 studies, researchers discovered that children have a lower risk of developing atopic dermatitis when their mothers ate a healthy diet when pregnant.
Taking probiotics during pregnancy can also slightly lower the risk of developing AD for a child.
But with maintaining a healthy diet, it’s not good for a pregnant woman to eliminate lots of foods in her diet. Some women stop eating foods that are most likely to cause allergies when they get pregnant until they stop breastfeeding, but that can do more harm than good.
Food allergies are common in children up to two years of age. Among the foods that usually cause a food allergy include cow’s milk, eggs, wheat, peanuts, hazelnuts, fish, and chocolate. And some expecting mothers and nursing mothers avoid these foods so their babies won’t get allergic to them.
Research findings suggest that this may not be necessary. When mothers stop eating these foods, it doesn’t change a child’s risk of developing atopic dermatitis, but instead, they are depriving their child of the nutrients they can get from these foods.
If you fail to get certain nutrients because you stop eating many healthy foods, it can jeopardize your child’s health. Ask your doctor first before eliminating healthy foods from your diet.
Moisturizing newborn’s skin
When a person has eczema, the skin becomes flaky, extremely dry, and easily irritated. These problems can occur because the skin loses water too quickly.
A study tested the effectiveness of moisturizer on a baby’s skin from birth and how it might reduce the child’s risk of developing eczema. Researchers encouraged a group of parents to apply an eczema-friendly moisturizer on their baby’s skin every day, and this group of parents also received a booklet about infant skincare. In the same study, another group was given only the booklet about infant skincare.
The study found that the group of children who were moisturized develop 50% less atopic dermatitis than the other group of children. This finding led to more research that resulted in the same findings.
While applying moisturizers can reduce your child’s risk of developing eczema, make sure that you consult the child’s pediatrician and ask for their recommended moisturizer. Some moisturizers contain ingredients that can irritate your child’s skin. Do not share the moisturizers you use with your baby unless you’re using a baby-friendly formula (which is unlikely).
Having a pet dog
You may not think of it that way, but having a dog in your home may help reduce eczema risk. Think of it as another benefit of dog ownership.
This idea is supported by a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics. The study’s researchers examined children with parents that had one or more of these conditions: atopic dermatitis, asthma, or hay fever. Children who live in a house with a dog before their first birthday experienced a dramatic reduction of developing risk of atopic dermatitis by age four. Having a cat in the home at the same age, however, increased the child’s risk of having eczema.
When the researchers analyzed earlier studies that looked at the effect of having a dog or cat in the home, they found the same result.
Other ways to prevent eczema
If your child is past one year old and you cannot do the things mentioned above anymore, here are some ways to help your child prevent eczema. The key is to avoid things that irritate your child’s skin.
- Dress your child in breathable and comfortable fabrics, like cotton clothes and underwear, rather than wool and polyester. Avoid dressing your child in too many layers.
- Keep your child cool, as the overheating can make eczema worse.
- Children should take short baths or short showers in warm, not hot water.
- Avoid using soaps and bubble baths. Use mild, non-soap cleansers, and choose unscented products.
- Bathe your child no more than once a day and less often in winter.
- Keep your child’s fingernails short to prevent skin damage from scratching.
- Make your child drink plenty of water to add moisture to the skin.
- Apply moisturizer and sunscreen to your child’s skin before letting them swim in chlorinated water. After swimming, wash the skin in a cool shower and apply moisturizer.
- When you get the opportunity, choose seawater over-chlorinated water. If your child wants to be in the water, take them to the beach instead of the pool. Seawater can help improve eczema.
- Get rid of any allergens in your household that can cause skin irritation, like molds, pollen, and tobacco smoke.
- Stress can make eczema worse, so help your child to find ways to deal with stress.