Neurodermatitis: Your baby’s hypersensitive skin

What is neurodermatitis?

Neurodermatitis is a chronic inflammatory skin disease more commonly known as atopic dermatitis or atopic eczema. It generally begins before the age of 6months in a newborn baby and affects the face and body such as hands, feet, back of knees, inside of elbows.

Why does neurodermatitis occur?

If you’re already prone to an atopic disease then the chances are your baby may inherit your skin condition too. Just like hayfever and asthma, neurodermatitis is a chronic disease inherited from one or both parents. It tends to develop in early infancy, with approximately 60% of children outgrowing it by the age of 16 years.

A baby’s skin is delicate, about five times thinner than an adult’s and moisture can easily escape leaving the skin’s natural barrier function weakened allowing for the skin to become dry. Although often genetic, neurodermatitis can occur from environmental factors where the skin can overreact.

Examples of environmental factors which can trigger attacks:

  • Environmental pollution and detergents
  • Extreme seasonal temperatures
  • Food allergies/intolerances
  • Stress from illness, lifestyle, etc

Neurodermatitis symptoms and phases

Neurodermatitis is characterised by patches of very dry, red, scaly skin lacking in natural oils. Skin can be reddened, raw, dry or weeping, crusted and flaking patches of skin commonly accompanied by extreme itching. Irritated inflamed skin can be combined with allergic asthma and/or hay fever and many sufferers, especially children, also suffer from food allergies.

There are other types of skin irritations that are often confused with neurodermatitis:

  • Cradle cap
  • Seborrhoeic dermatitis
  • Neonatal acne
  • Dry skin in the first few weeks of a new born baby
  • Nappy rash
  • Candida nappy rash

Course of a neurodermatitis episode:

Chart showing the course of a neurodermatitis episode

The overall goal is to lesson the frequency of episodes and reduce the accompanying symptoms of the neurodermatitis by restoring the equilibrium of the compromised protective skin barrier.

1. Dormant or resting phase

Condition of skin is normal, possibly dry or lacking oil with little itching. The main objective of treatment is prevention.

  • Treatment: Regular application of fragrance free skincare products that help restore skins natural barrier function
  • Cleansing: add fragrance free gentle baby oil to bath water or use to clean nappy area to help rebalance skin
  • Pharmaceuticals: for specific indications relating to skin, digestion and well being

2. Irritated phase

Condition of skin is dry to very dry with red patches and cracks. Itching increases and skin becomes tight. The main objective of treatment is to minimise the itching.

  • Treatment: frequent application of skincare products that contain no essential oils (fragrance free) help restore skins natural barrier function
  • Cleansing: add fragrance free gentle baby oil to bath water or use to clean nappy area to help rebalance skin
  • Pharmaceuticals: for specific indications relating to skin, digestion and well beingTreatment tip: apply cream or lotion and wrap particularly badly affected areas in a damp cloth

3. Acute phase

Condition of skin is severely irritated, usually with weeping eczema and intense itching. The main objective of treatment it to minimise itching and infection.

  • Treatment: cosmetic skincare products should only be applied to UNAFFECTED areas. For affected areas use skincare or pharmaceutical products recommended by your Doctor.
  • Cleansing: add fragrance free gentle baby oil to bath water or use to clean nappy area to help rebalance skin
  • Pharmaceuticals: for specific indications relating to skin, digestion and well being

Extra care tips:

  • Use only a few squirts of fragrance free baby oil to bath  water
  • For acute itching cut finger nails and if required wear cotton gloves/mittens at night – damp compresses can be applied then too
  • Clothing can easily add discomfort to irritated skin. Wear or wrap babies in natural fabrics such as cotton, silk or linen and remove any labels (silk fabric has a wonderful cooling effect)
  • Avoid fragranced laundry detergents, there’s a good variety of eco friendly and sensitive detergents available to choose from
  • Get some fresh air if you can, go for a walk
  • Routine is calming as it provides security so try and establish regular rest or sleeping times
  • Eczema can worsen during times of teething or infections
  • Observe any food and environmental triggers
  • Keep a skin diary for a four week period to record your child’s food intake, clothing, routine and mood
  • Try and take time out as parental stress can be transferred to babies particularly in stressful situations

Weleda's White Mallow Body Lotion and White Mallow Face Cream are fragrance free and specially formulated for hyper-sensitive and dry skin. White Mallow gently wraps a calming protective layer around the skin, soothing and maintaining the skins moisture whilst alleviating itching.

We’d Love Your Feedback

Have you or someone you know had any experience with a hyper-sensitive skin condition?

How did you/they relieve the symptoms?