Your pregnancy and baby guide

Eczema in babies and young children

Babies often get red, scaly skin known as eczema – in fact, 1 in 8 might get it where there's a family history of allergic conditions like eczema, asthma or hay fever.

Babies often start to get eczema from 2 months old. The symptoms are patches of red, dry and itchy skin on the face or behind the ears, and in the creases of the neck, knees and elbows.

Your baby may scratch the itchy patches and the eczema can get infected as a result.

In Asian, black Caribbean and black African children, eczema may not affect creases but may affect other areas.

Most babies eventually grow out of eczema, but speak to your GP or health visitor if you think your child has eczema.

Don't cut out important foods such as milk, dairy products, wheat or eggs without discussing this with a health professional first.

Tips on soothing your child's eczema

  • Apply an unperfumed moisturiser to the sore area several times a day – for example, when you feed or change your baby – to help keep their skin moist. Apply the moisturiser with downward strokes.
  • Avoid aqueous cream – recent evidence has shown it can cause burning, stinging, itching and redness. And avoid soap, baby bath and bubble bath as these can dry or irritate the skin.
  • Try to keep your child's bedroom cool as getting hot and sweaty can make their eczema worse.
  • Eczema can get worse if your child has an allergic reaction to house dust mites. Dust mites and their faeces collect on soft toys. To reduce the problem, it's best to stick to one or two favourites. Each week, wash them at 60C or put them in a plastic bag in the freezer for 24 hours to kill the mites. Wash bed linen at 60C as well to get rid of the house dust mites.
  • Steroid creams can stop eczema getting worse. They're safe as long as they're used as directed by your GP or pharmacist.  
  • Try to identify and avoid anything that irritates the skin or makes the problem worse, such as soap powder, animals, chemical sprays and cigarette smoke. Eliminate any of these if possible. Even second-hand smoke (passive smoking) can harm your baby.
  • Some fabrics can irritate the skin. Try to avoid wool and nylon and stick to cotton instead.

Media last reviewed: 20 Aug 2017

Media review due: 20 Aug 2020

Page last reviewed: 09/10/2015
Next review due: 09/10/2018