What causes eczema in babies

Infantile eczema is a type of skin inflammation disease associated with itchiness and rash in babies. Almost 45% of all eczema case happened in infants who are below 6 months of age and it appears as itchiness, redness and small bump in their faces. There are strong evidence to indicate eczema in infants is much related to maternal or paternal history/background. I will share some insight about the causes of eczema in babies and what are the solutions to treat it.

What is eczema?

When we talk about eczema in babies usually it refers to infantile eczema which is also known as atopic dermatitis which is commonly happened in early childhood. Atopic dermatitis appears to be

  • itchy
  • dry and scaly
  • skin appear to be bright red
  • inflamed patches of skin
  • changes in skin tone
  • swollen
  • some may have blister, skin thickening and bleeding

Babies who are less than 12 months of age usually develop eczema in their faces – cheeks, eyelid, forehead, sometimes on the scalp and will be extended to the body when the babies get older. For older children, eczema often appears on behind the knees, inside elbow, around the mouth, side of the neck, wrist and arm. The skin may appear dry and scaly, sometimes moisture from the drooling will make it worse too.

Atopic dermatitis is different from nappy rash. If we do not handle the babies eczema carefully, these type of babies will get nappy rash easily too.

There is no cure treatment for eczema but reduction can be done by implementing the preventive measures which I will touch on this topic later in this article.

Basically, eczema is not contagious, but when babies with eczema are infected with bacteria or fungus, it will spread to other part of the area.

Some babies will get eczema few weeks after they are born, some will get it once they reach more than 1 -2 years old. Some will have a mild skin condition, some will have more severe condition. It depends on every baby.

What causes eczema in babies?

The actual cause is unknown but there are evidences to show eczema is related to 3 main factors.


There are evidence to show children who have maternal and/or paternal history on skin condition, hay fever or asthma will have higher chances (2-3times higher) of getting eczema.

Normally good healthy skin acts as a layer of skin barrier which prevent the water lost from the skin as well as to prevent the penetration of irritants, toxins, allergens and bacteria from the surrounding. Babies with eczema are more prone to the irritant and bacteria attack due to the changes in their epidermal lipid which allow the water loss, therefore skin become drier and cracked.

Babies with eczema are associated with mutation in FLG gene which decrease the ability to protect the skin from the water loss and provide good skin barrier against the irritants and bacteria. Therefore, children with atopic dermatitis will have an increased of likelihood in developing hay fever or asthma too.


Temperature and humidity in our living environment are believed to be part and parcel of the trigger on eczema. If we are living in hot and humid countries all year round (example in Malaysia or Singapore), or cold and dry weather such as living in Australia may cause eczema to flare-up. In hot and humid environment, heat and sweating sometimes cause skin problem especially on the skin fold. If you do not implement proper personal hygiene, the skin condition may get worse too. Furthermore, babies who have eczema will have even drier skin condition if the weather is dry.

On the other hand , skin problem may also arise if your babies are ”too clean”. Babies’ skin may get drier due to water loss and cause the flare-up.

Too often scratching may damage the skin barrier too and allow the irritant and bacteria to get pass the surface of the skin.


This is related to babies poor immune system towards some allergen such as tobacco smoke, pollen, dust, chemical from the detergent and certain food. Eczema may be developed when the babies are more susceptible to these allergens. Most common eczema in babies due to allergy reaction to cow milk protein.

what causes eczema in babies

Photos of my daughter who get eczema on her thigh due to food allergy.

what causes eczema in babies

Solutions for Treatment

Most parent will try all possible solutions to make sure their babies eczema is well treated and avoid flare-up. There are some workable solutions for your reference.

1. Personal hygiene. It is always a good health practice to keep your babies skin clean and hygienic. Wear loose clothes during summer and keep your babies in a comfortable environment. If the weather is too dry especially in winter time, turn on Humidifier or apply lotion to keep your babies skin smooth and moist.

Use the mild soap without dye and fragrance. My daughter uses Cetaphil baby wash and Cetaphil Eczema Soothing Moisturizer after shower twice daily. It keeps my daughter skin moist at all time.

Keep your babies nail short and clean too. Avoid frequent scratching as it will develop more severe skin condition due to bacteria or fungus infection.

2. Medical ailment. Use hydro cortisone cream on the affected area. This medication is a mild cortiscosteroid. Always consult your doctor for the right medication treatment for your babies skin condition. Medical ailment/cream will help to ease the itchiness and reduce the redness of the skin. Do not buy from over-the-counter medical ailment without consulting the Health professional.

3. Stay away from the allergen. It is best to avoid all the allergen within the babies vicinity. Here are some examples of the allergen:

  • Tobacco smoke – passive smoke and active smoking can harm babies and adult and it is proven to have increased prevalence of atopic dermatitis in one of the study conducted in year 2016.
  • Dust mite – exposure to dust mite can also trigger eczema. Skin condition will be improved once the babies do not expose to things that will hold a lot of dust like stuffed toys, blanket, carpet, curtain etc. Clean your babies room thoroughly to avoid accumulation of dust.
  • Food allergen – be careful when you introduce solid food to your babies. There are 8 food allergens according to FDA – cow’s milk, peanut, shellfish, fish, eggs, almond, wheat and soy bean, which can trigger allergy reaction and cause eczema in babies. For the mothers who are nursing their babies exclusively, try to avoid these foods in your diet.
  • Chemical. Babies are susceptible for irritant such as chemical from the detergent, soap and shampoo. Make sure every item related to babies are gentle to babies’ skin.

4. Vitamin D. There are numbers of studies found on people are likely to have eczema are those who has lower level of vitamin D. Vitamin D is important part of immune system. It can repair your broken skin barrier and help prevent skin infection caused by bacteria and lower the inflammation.

Some researchers concluded that low level of vitamin D during pregnancy may relate to their infant developing eczema after birth. Therefore, improving vitamin D in pregnant women help prevent eczema in their children.

Foods which contain vitamin D include:

  • Eggs
  • Salmon fish
  • Fortified milk
  • Fortified bean curd
  • Soya milk
  • Cereal
  • Yogurt
  • Fortified orange juice

You may get vitamin D supplement in the market too.


Atopic dermatitis or eczema are quite common in early childhood. We are uncertain about how our babies get it in the first place but most importantly is how we are going to handle the situation to reduce the severity of the skin condition. Of course, eliminating the source of allergen are our prior concern.

The method I have compiled based on my personal experience can be your reference to improve your babies’ skin condition. Do drop me a message to share your experience about how you handle your baby’s eczema. I am sure there are many other ways you do to control the flare-up. Do not hesitate to share here and I hope this can be a good sharing platform which will bring benefit to our readers out there.

Happy reading!

4 thoughts on “What causes eczema in babies”

  1. My son was born with a mild form of eczema, I did not know it as the time, but after reading your article I believe it was an allergy towards milk. We did not even think about that, but neither of us was aware of a genetic possibility since we did not have any family members with eczema, so it must have been coming from an outside source. He grew out of it fairly quickly after he became a toddler, so we did not think about it much after obviously, but for our next children we will definitely keep an eye on that. Thank you so much for the information!

  2. It seems to be a common problem, doesn’t it? I’ve seen it with several babies. Diet seems to be a good way to prevent it, and a vitamin D supplement is also a great suggestion. Is eczema so prevalent in babies because their immune systems are still not that strong …? 

    Dust mite, I hate that one because you can’t see it … It’s hard to prevent that … Do you have any suggestions how to tackle that problem, besides cleaning? I live in the semi-desert, and dust is a big issue here, that’s why I’m asking.

    • Hi Christine,

      i guess you are right. It is quite common to see skin problem in young babies and older children, somehow the exact cause of eczema for each one of them cannot be determined with certainty. Stay away from allergen of course is the best way to prevent it. 

      Dust mite do not survive in low humidity area. I used to suspect dust mite could be the cause of my daughter skin problem therefore, i bought a Dehumidifier and place it in our bedroom. We turned it on during day time and do thorough cleaning. Finally i found out my daughter is allergic to certain food, after we removed it from her diet, she is much better now.



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