Is it Time for a New Approach to Paediatric Eczema?

I have specialised in working with babies and children with eczema – and other skin conditions – for the past 10 years. first as a research analyst in a large Pharmaceutical company – working with off licence immuno suppressive drugs and latterly as a homeopath, slight change of career there!!

It was never something I intended to do, rather something I fell into and found profoundly interesting. I think as mum to four young children myself lots of parents resonated with me so when I set up my own homeopathic clinic and drew in my first patient – a 1yr old suffering with severe eczema – word spread and I quickly became known as “the lady that treats childhood skin problems” and have seen a steady stream of baby eczema referrals ever since over the years. One thing I have learnt is how stressful living with a baby with eczema can be. Sore, itchy skin can cause havoc with a baby’s sleep, feeding and general mood throughout the day, I feel so much more for babies suffering with eczema as they cannot even tell us when they are uncomfortable.


At homeopathic college we always laughed at what we called the TEETH phenomenon – aka: “Tried Everything Else Try Homeopathy”, certainly the babies and children I saw all came to me with armfuls of doublebase, diprobase, E45, aqueous cream, betaderm, Dermovate, Eumovate, wet wrap bandages and more. The mums had two concerns 1) the conventional treatment wasn’t working very well and 2) they were worried about the effects the treatments had on the skin. Indeed clinical evidence is not all that persuasive when it comes to the effectiveness of the lotions, potions and techniques used – e.g: a study by  Hindley, Galloway and Murray  in Arch Dis Child (2006) found that Wet wrap bandages for 4 weeks did not differ from topical ointments but increased skin infections in paediatric atopic eczema.

In terms of side effects, something I was particularly conscious of having worked in pharmacovigilance (drug safety) reporting for 4 years previously, steroid creams have a particularly bad record. The most well known side efffect of steroid creams being thinning of the skin (atrophy) which can often result in permanent marks (striae). The fine blood vessels under the skin can swell and become permanently prominent (telangiectasia) and pigment can be temporarily lost in the areas of skin treated. Children can even be allergic to the cream which results in making the eczema worse. The skin might bruise more easily and become more susceptible to infection which in turn can damage the skin even more! (is this ringing any bells of the classic “cascade of intervention” for any birthy peeps?). That’s just effects on the skin itself though, steroid use can have far reaching effects on the whole body (systemic) and has been known to cause growth suppression or adrenal suppression (and illnesses such as Cushing’s syndrome). Children are at a greater risk of systemic side effects than adults, yet it is often in childhood that we start smothering them in steriodal creams.

Many parents remove cow’s milk from their child’s diet in the hopes that this will cure their baby’s eczema, however evidence for this approach is lacking at best, with some studies refuting any benefit at all. Bath-Hextall, Delamere and Williams found no change in eczema after removing (cows) milk from the infant’s diet in a review of 9 studies, published in 2008.



So, what can make a difference? without nasty side effects?


1) Removal of Processed Foods from the diet.

A study by Lee, Jin, Noh and Lee in 2011 found a significant improvement in the eczema suffered by children who had had all processed foods (particularly MSG) removed from their diet, after 1 week.



2) Addition of Omega Fatty Acid supplement

Although the study by Popa et al in 2011 was a veterinary study  the results showed a promising effect on skin lipids on the skin of atopic dogs. Hopefully this research will be continued into humans. There is already much research showing the benefit of Omega oils for child behaviour and brain development and even as an effective prevention for pre-eclampsia.



3) Prevention before birth?

A study by Kalliokomaki in the Lancet in 2001 studied babies at risk for atopic disease, by giving the pregnant mother an oral administration of Lactobacillus GG (LGG), the results found that given prenatally and postnatally the LGG significantly reduced the occurrence of atopic eczema in babies and children up to 2 years of age.




4) Coconut Oil

100% pure coconut oil is a highly saturated fat expressed from the kernels of the coconut.  Coconut oil has long been famed for its gentle moisturising properties. It is an incredibly light, easily absorbed oil that is very similar to skin’s natural moisturiser – sebum. Coconut oil has been used for thousands of years as a skin conditioner around the world and is particularly known for its gentle healing effect on eczema. For this reason coconut oil is the one thing I recommend to all parents of babies suffering from eczema. The best way to use it is when the skin is slightly damp, just having got out of a bath is great, even better if a massage is included! Very often parents comment to me that the results are better than their prescription creams!

A lovely range containing coconut oil is Weleda’s Baby Derma range, specifically formulated for eczema prone skin.


5) Chamomile and Calendula

Both wonderfully useful for calming and soothing itchy and irritated eczema. I commonly recommend parents by a little tin of Badger Baby Balm to keep at hand for middle of the night itches and always have some on standby for general cuts and grazes and nappy rash.


6) Removal of Non-Organic products with no SLS, Parabens and Minerals

Perhaps one of the worst things we can do for a child with eczema or irritated skin is to bath them in commercial products containing the above, for a detailed explanation of why these nasties should be avoided by everyone, not just children and babies with sensitive skin, see THIS POST.

7) Oats

Pure organic oats can work absolute wonders for sore itchy skin, not just for babies and toddlers with eczema, but for those suffering from chicken pox. The easiest way to use oats is to cut the foot and leg off of a pair of old (clean!) tights, fill with organic  oats and tie around the tap in a running bath. Once the bath is run squeeze out the milky liquid into the bath. The “sock” can even be rubbed over the skin as a form of soap.

8) Be careful with sunscreen!

Very often I will see a flare in one of my young patient’s eczema after a sunny spell, the cause is almost always suncream, it’s very hard to find an organic, additive and synthetic ingredient free suncream for babies, parents seem to assume that because a cream is marketed on the high street for babies and children that it is gentle – which is usually not the case! my favourite suncream for all babies, not just those with sensitive skin is Badger Baby Sunscreen.

9) Eczema friendly clothing

Organic cotton with silver can work wonders for babies who scratch at night, they are not cheap – but you can’t put a price on a good night’s sleep – you can get a wide range of products, such as this babygro with silver.


About SarahOckwell-Smith

Sarah Ockwell-Smith, Parenting author and mother to four.
This entry was posted in Babies, Preschoolers, Toddlers, Tweens and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Is it Time for a New Approach to Paediatric Eczema?

  1. Marion says:

    Hi Sarah,
    I would like to email you an unrelated topic for your opinion. Do you have a generic email contact please?

  2. Leyla says:

    Hi Sarah, Great post and I have so much to say and so much to ask on the topic 🙂 My daughter developed eczema at 4 months, and it is only through express, dedicated determination that I have found ways to ease her discomfort. Doctors do not take it seriously enough – a baby turns your life upside down as it is, an eczema baby puts new and different strains on you.
    Is it OK for you if I share this blog post on my social media?

  3. lauvonnes says:

    Thanks for your post, Sarah! My baby also developed eczema at 4 months. Would you please recommend any homeopath or homeopathic treatment in London?

  4. Mel says:

    Hi Sarah, I have just purchased a jar of Chickweed compound as I was recommended it by a friend. The storekeeper said it is safe for use on my 8 month-old (he has a stubborn patch behind his ear). What is your opinion? Also is it safe for me to use? (I am nursing). Thank you very much for any info!

  5. Catherine says:

    I 100% agree with all that you have said!! I have suffered since childhood with eczema and dermatitus and have tried all sorts of things. I find that dream cream from lush is better than anything else for me and I have regular reflexology treatments and I have very few breakouts now!! I wish I had tried reflexology years ago as it has totally changed my life!! I am now a qualified reflexologist and have many clients who come to me with their skin issues and it really works just make sure your reflexologist is highly qualified!!

    • Anna Froehlich says:

      Hi Catherine, this is such an interesting post, thank you for your recommendation. My mum suffers severely especially on her hands. I was wondering where about you are based? Maybe she could be your next client? We live in Middlesex at the moment. Thank you. Anna

      • Catherine says:

        Oh I just noticed this post, sorry!! I am based in Aberdeen, Scotland so possibly too far for you to travel! Haha. If you are looking for a reflexologist go to the assosiation of reflexologists website and you can find a reflexologist in your area. The people on there are all well qualified, insured and have to continue with their education so everyone is continuing research which is good!! (I let my registration lapse but will be signing back up in the bext couoke of months) Feel free to look me up on Facebook at tranquilityreflexology I’d love to hear how your mum gets on. It’s really changed my life!!!! Good luck! Xx

  6. Louise says:

    Totally agree with your comments. Steroid creams can cause addiction and dependence. The body start to rely on them. Docs are far too ready to prescribe them as a cure-all. Your steps are practical and wise. Google “topical steroid addiction” for the true impact of steroid cream overuse.

  7. Eczema relif says:

    Biosynol provides kid’s Eczema relief cream which moisturizes to soothe and relieve itching and helps prevent the recurrence of extra dry skin.

  8. ilianora says:

    Hi, I know this post is from April last year, but the link under point number 6, ‘THIS POST’ is a dead end? I’d be really interested to take a look if you’ve any ideas where I can find the post. Thanks for this post, I now have it bookmarked 🙂

  9. Gabriella says:

    This is great! my son developed an eczema patch in his arm at about 6 months old and we treated it with compresses of apple vinegar (organic). That kept it controlled and after some months it went away. Hoping it won’t come back!

    • Joanne says:

      Hi Gabriella, may i know how do u use the apple vinegar? My baby has eczema too. I am interesting of giving her a try on this. Tq

  10. jade says:

    Just want to add here that my sons eczema, which started at 5 weeks of age and has at times looked very much like the child pictured here — it was absolutely linked to food allergy. That wasn’t the entire problem of course, but I saw immediate positive changes after removing allergic foods (after a visit to an allergist and a full back scratch allergy test). I should also note that we already ate very little processed food, and that all of our baby care products were natural.

    We have a lot of allergic disease in both mine and my husbands family so we knew to take a look at this early on. So I just wanted to add this to your brains mamas. Keeping a food journal to look for patterns is absolutely worth it. Nursing mamas, what you’re eating is enough to cause a reaction in some children too. I had to cut a myriad of foods out of my own diet for my little guy — but with those eliminations and a good skincare routine, I’m happy to report we have been able to cut out all steroids completely!!!! Hang in there mamas!

  11. Dr Donald Mackenzie says:

    Hi Sarah, I’m finding that simply advising people to bathe in cooler temperatures for shorter periods and less frequently tends to have good results. Most parents think that washing their baby regularly in water is a good thing yet they aren’t aware of how damaging water can be to skin that is already struggling to maintain its integrity.

  12. Kelly says:

    What Omega Fatty Acid supplement is safe for an 18lb 5.5 month baby? How & how much do you recommend I give my baby chamomile & calendula? My baby girl, Carol, has horrible, chronic eczema & her doctors have been unsuccessful at clearing it so she can get breaks from prescriptions. I am incredibly nervous about the length of time she has been on hydrocortisone cream (7 straight weeks). Her Doctor finally told me it is ok to give her a break regardless of it clearing (hydrocortisone manages it but doesn’t clear it up). Within 1 missed application of 2% hydrocortisone, my baby had a HORRIBLE flare up. After 2 days of no hydrocortisone, but religiously applying & Cerave moisturizer as well as olive oil w/ a drop of melaleuca, and after a (non-local) family friend doctor expressed concerned about Carol having a “bacterial / fungal infection overgrowth” based on a photograph taken after 1 missed dose; I broke down & applied 2% hydrocortisone again. Carol’s doctor said she is too young to see an allergist & doesn’t believe Carol has a milk allergy. I am no longer breast feeding & my daughter has been on Gerber Good Start Protect (now labeled Supplementing), which contains probiotics, for close to four months. We had tummy issues prior to formula only & Carol has been on probiotics since she was a newborn. My baby cannot put petroleum or mineral oil on her skin. Her doctor wants me to try Locoid, which contains 1% hydrocortisone, petroleum & mineral oil. i dont see the point when 2% doesnt clear it & Carol has flareups from petroleum. I am so desperate, I begged & pleaded w/ my Determologist to work us into the schedule next week, despite knowing my baby will be prescribed more chemical drugs. I am so desperate to help my baby that I feel like if I can get a proper medicine that works, at least my baby will get a break from these chemicals. Please help me. I worry so much that I’m hurting her while helping her at the same time. Her doctor is playing a guessing game. i feel helpless & very concerned!

  13. Radi says:

    Hi Sarah,

    My little boy is 9months old and suffering from eczema on his back, chest and neck. I was wondering what your opinion would be on beeswax, coconut oil and breast milk in a lotion form? Could this help with his eczema?

  14. Joyce says:

    Dear Sarah, i’ve used mild steroids to treat the infected areas. As doctor advisedto taper off slowly, can i use coconut oil after applying steroids? Will there be any chemical reaction that is not good to use them together? Baby is 4.5 mths.

  15. Veronica says:

    My son has been suffering from eczema for many years now on his legs. Although he is lighted skin he legs had several spots of discoloration. I ordered foderma serum and within a few days the difference was very noticeable.This is amazing product. The color on his legs are starting to get back to normal as well.

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