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What Is Infant Dermatitis?

Laundry soap can cause infant dermatitis.
Dermatitis can affect people of all ages, even infants.
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  • Written By: Amanda R. Bell
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 02 April 2014
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Infant dermatitis is any condition that affects a baby’s skin. Due to the hormonal changes experienced during pregnancy which can affect a growing baby, many infants experience some form of skin condition within their first year. The most common are acne, diaper rash, cradle cap, and infant eczema. Infant dermatitis usually has no long-term effect on the child, although infant eczema could be an indicator of future problems with allergies.

Baby acne is very common among children under one year old, especially in boys. It produces small pimples on the cheeks, chin, and forehead and will almost always clear up on its own without medical treatment. If the acne persists or becomes severe, a doctor may prescribe a specialized cream.

Diaper rash is experienced by almost every baby at least once, although some are extremely prone to developing this form of infant dermatitis. Diaper rash can be caused by any number of things, although it is typically an irritation from the moist environment a diaper creates, a reaction to chemicals in a diaper, or a response to an infection in the body. It can usually be treated by frequent diaper changes, time where no diaper is worn, and applying creams containing zinc oxide. In some cases, changing diaper brands or switching to cloth diapering may be the only treatment options.

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Cradle cap, technically known as seborrhoeic dermatitis, is another common type of infant dermatitis. The exact cause of this condition is unknown, although it is sometimes linked to a type of yeast infection. Symptoms include itchy, scaly skin, and large amounts of dandruff on the head and eyebrows. It usually clears up on its own within six to 12 months and can be controlled by washing the baby’s hair often, gently brushing it, and rubbing natural oil into the scalp to loosen skin and sooth irritation. Severe seborrhoeic dermatitis can also spread to the face, back, and chest. In this case, medicated creams and shampoos are usually prescribed.

Infant eczema, also known as infant atopic dermatitis, is one of the more severe forms of infant dermatitis. It produces red patches of skin that are very itchy, sensitive, and may leak pus or other fluid. It usually affects the face and scalp; doctors believe it is caused by a combination of dry skin and immune issues, usually allergies. Infant eczema is often treated with antibiotics, over-the-counter anti-itch creams, antihistamines, and specialized lotions. It is also helpful to bathe the baby only when needed and typically in a cool bath rather than a warm one.

While most forms of infant dermatitis clear up on their own, infant eczema is usually a precursor for allergies, typically hay fever or asthma. Despite this, most cases of infant dermatitis are not especially painful for infants and can usually be controlled or treated without medication. If the baby seems excessively uncomfortable or the rash gets significantly worse, it is a good idea to call the baby’s pediatrician.

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