What’s causing your baby’s eczema? These are our baby’s top eczema triggers and what we do to minimize each trigger. Every baby is different, but hopefully our experience will help you identify your baby’s eczema triggers.
Everyone’s eczema situation and journey is different. In our experience, every baby has a different set of triggers that cause eczema to flair up.
You need to find out what is causing your own baby’s eczema to flair up, and unfortunately it takes a bit of investigative work if it’s not obvious. Start by jotting down notes each day to see what your baby might have encountered to trigger an eczema flair.
Hopefully, you’ll be able to find a pattern. And soon, you’ll have identified your baby’s top eczema triggers.
But it’s always helpful for us to read about others parents’ experiences with finding their baby’s top eczema triggers. It gives us a sense of what might make eczema flair up in our own little one.
It also prompted us to explore areas and habits of our son’s life that we might’ve never thought about before.
We’re hoping that this list can help you start to narrow down the list of things that triggers your baby’s eczema. So without further ado, here are our baby’s top eczema triggers.
Top eczema triggers for our baby
- Overtired and/or not getting enough sleep
- Too hot
- Food allergies (egg, foods with a close association with birch pollen, formerly dairy)
- Other foods that trigger eczema (corn / maize)
- Environmental allergies (birch tree pollen)
- Dry skin
- Getting sick / illnesses
- Getting stressed / throwing a mega tantrum
With each of these top eczema triggers, we also let you know what we do about it and how to mitigate it. It’s one thing to find out the eczema trigger, it’s a whole other game to be able to manage that trigger.
Being overtired or not getting enough sleep makes our baby’s eczema flair up
This is a very easy one to fall prey to because it can happen everyday, regardless of the environmental conditions. Whenever our son is well-rested and has good sleep, he tends to be in better shape overall. We suspect it’s because his body seems to be able to regulate and respond, and he’s also less prone to throwing a tantrum.
But like we all know, getting a baby or toddler to adhere to a regular sleep schedule is not easy! Some days he attends nursery or has more physical activity, and some days he doesn’t. He also naps on most days, but other days he skips his nap entirely.
It is definitely difficult to navigate his sleep habits, but we personally what works for us is being flexible about his sleep times.
If he’s not tired, we don’t feel there’s any point trying to force him to go to sleep. We’ve tried it, but the resulting tantrums and boredom just didn’t seem worth it for us. If he doesn’t throw a tantrum to fight the nap, the boredom results in him just happily scratching in his bed.
But when we suspect he is any bit tired, even if it’s a 3 PM nap, we often let him take a nap if we can manage.
So while it’s not great for our schedules because he may nap from 3 – 5 PM, then not go to bed until 11 pm, we avoid unnecessary scratching sessions.
We also let him just sleep as long as he can / wants during naps and at nights. We figure, if he’s sleeping, he probably needs it whether it’s for his development or skin recovery.
Being too hot causes our baby’s eczema to flair up
When our son gets too hot, watch out. He gets itchy, so he scratches, which in turn exacerbates his skin and eczema.
As much as we love summers for all the fun associations with it, we now loathe the sun and heat. In the UK in particular where most of the apartments and flats are older and thus don’t have A/C, it’s an absolute killer.
We tried to cope with the summer heat for two summers using fans. At one point, we probably had three different fans in the room, but the bedroom was on the second floor, so hot air was rising up and we weren’t able to generate a cross-breeze, so we were just blowing hot air around.
We finally decided to splurge on an A/C unit for the bedroom to keep it cool. Without it, our son was just always so hot, especially since we had to keep him in scratch sleeves, which is just another layer to sleep in. And him being uncomfortable also meant it was difficult for him to fall asleep and stay asleep.
(For those in the U/K, you can actually rent A/C units as well through groups like Chilly Peppers)
But even when it’s not the summer, physical activity can raise one’s body temperature. Obviously, we love it when our son is going full-toddler running around the park and getting physical activity in, so we’ve looked for ways to cool him down quick.
We like to carry a spray bottle around in the stroller to spray him afterwards. The water mist is fun, and has a great cooling effect on the skin.
We love this Mist ‘N Sip bottle to carry around in the summer. It keeps the water cool, and you can drink from it as well as mist out water to cool off your itchy baby or toddler.
Food allergies can cause eczema in a baby
The way our doctors have explained it to us is that allergies and eczema are like cousins. They’re related, but not. One can have food allergies but not have eczema, and even vice versa.
But food allergies in general are a common trigger for those with eczema since it stresses the body and the autoimmune system.
The easiest way to find out about allergies is to get tested. You need to talk to an allergist or nutritionist before you make any changes to your baby’s diet.
That being said, our baby does not have any severe food allergies, and we were able to generally observe with some experimentation what food allergies our baby has.
Our baby always becomes itchy after he eats egg. And by the end of the day or the next day, his eczema will flare up across his entire body. We suspected an egg allergy, but he never got rashes so it wasn’t so obvious.
Our allergy test confirmed that he does indeed have a mild egg allergy. It’s a bit fuzzy whether egg causes his eczema to flair up, or egg merely causes him to be itchy, and the scratching then caused the eczema to flair up though.
I guess it doesn’t really matter, but we know that if he gets anti-histamines when he eats eggs, he is not so itchy, and we don’t end up with an eczema flair up the next day.
Some foods trigger our baby’s eczema to flair up
Then there are other foods which for some reason cause an eczema flare up but our son is apparently not allergic to it. This is true for corn / maize ingredients.
After some trial and error, we just found a correlation between our son eating something with corn / maize and then getting an eczema breakout shortly after.
We got him tested for it multiple times and each time comes out negative.
Environmental factors can make baby eczema worse
Environmental allergies, unlike food allergies, are impossible to avoid. If the air’s got birch pollen, we can’t really do anything about it. Yet, we still try.
We’ve tried a few different air purifiers for our apartment from cheap and cheerful units to more expensive industrial-grade ones. The cheap ones were a waste of money. The itching got better as soon as we swapped to one that has HyperHEPA filters to stop ultrafine particles.
We always have our air purifier on, and it has helped so much with reducing environmental eczema triggers.
Spring and summer seasons are particularly difficult for those with pollen allergies. So during those periods, we’ll actively look for more activities inside.
Or if we do go to a park to play, we change his clothes immediately as soon as we get home and wipe his face down as well. If we can, pop him in the bath as soon as we come home.
Antihistamines are also helpful and safe, so we give our son cetrizine twice a day (once in the morning and once at night) per the allergist’s recommendation.
Dry skin can cause eczema to flair up
Dry skin is bad. Lotion and moisturizers are good.
This is one of the top eczema triggers that you can have the most control with! We used to moisturize our son every 2 hours.
How often you moisturize your baby or toddler will depend on the emollient you use. We’ve gone through at least 9 different brands.
Now, we moisturize our son three times a day although we’ve instructed to moisturize him only twice a day (once in the morning and once at night). The third time we moisturize him is immediately after his bath to lock in the moisture after he gets out.
Getting sick makes eczema worse
Again, there’s no stopping this one when it happens, which is pretty often, especially if your child is in a nursery or daycare.
During these times, we try to be extra cautious about making sure our son gets enough sleep and also extra patient since he’s more irritable so that it doesn’t lead to a mega meltdown.
Getting stressed or throwing a tantrum is an eczema trigger for our toddler
This one’s tricky to balance because there are so many various factors involved. We want to avoid tantrums for his eczema’s sake, but we also want to be able to parent him the way we feel we should, which sometimes (who am I kidding – often times) means he can’t have what he wants.
We wanted to help him avoid tantrums where we could, and helping him communicate was key in doing so. If he could communicate what he wanted, then we could potentially meet that need right away rather than us guessing whether he was hungry or tired or wanted a toy. But if it’s something we don’t think he should have (i.e., that toy or more screen time), then we draw a line and deal with it the best we can.
So from when he was four months, we made an effort to teach him some sign language. Eventually he could tell us his needs, but for the months before then, signing was really helpful to avoid additional crying and stress.