Babies, Eczema, and Allergies… Oh My!


Editor’s Note: This video is part of the ongoing allergy series in partnership with Columbia Allergy. To learn more about allergies, eczema, and related topics, please refer to our Allergy Guide!

You are invited to have a FREE discovery session at Columbia Allergy’s beautiful Redwood City clinic – all you have to do is call (650) 503-9770 and mention SFBAM!

All babies have sensitive skin, but some babies could be even more sensitive than others. I’m sure many of you have spotted skin irritation on your baby and have shared a photo of it on a baby forum, baby WebMD, or a mom group in a panic with the caption, “HELP! What is this weird red patch on my baby???”

For most, the condition may be very manageable with over-the-counter ointments, but for others, it may be a beginning of a longer-term ailment that needs extra attention. Either way, the baby’s health, together with their comfort, will always be the top priority for parents, and if you’re dealing with potential allergies or skin sensitivity issues at the moment – you are not alone, and there are viable treatments available!

And then there are the dreaded allergies, any allergy parent would be able to relate when someone mentions phasing out foods one by one to find the culprit, the pain of finding the safe type of formula, dealing with gastrointestinal issues, the nerve-racking new food introductions, and much more. Again, just remember that you are not alone!

Allergies and eczema are a contemporary medical field that is growing and learning rapidly. More and more babies (even adults!) are developing allergies or have pre-existing conditions such as eczema are prone to allergy development. We are recently reached out to our expert panelist, Dr. Renu Gandhe, from 2021 Bloom to share with us more in-depth insights on baby allergies and skin conditions.

What’s the difference between eczema, hives, and sensitive skin?

Eczema is the collective term for a group of skin conditions that can cause rough patches of skin that look leathery or scaly and can be dry, itchy, and red. Eczema is not contagious, but the exact cause of eczema is unknown. Researchers have found that your genetics can make you more likely to develop eczema, and you may be at a higher risk if you also have asthma or allergies. There are several different types of eczema. The most common type is atopic dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis is an immunologic response to an irritant or allergen. The rash can develop at any age, it may come and go, and you may not know what triggers your flare-ups. Other types of eczema include dyshidrotic eczema, nummular eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, and stasis dermatitis. Some common triggers include soaps, laundry detergents, cleaning solvents, food such as chocolate, nuts, and soy, medications, stress, and wool as well as synthetic fabrics.
Hives, also known as urticaria, are itchy, raised, red welts that occur when your body reacts to an allergen. Hives can vary in size, shape, and can occur anywhere on your body. Hives usually last less than 24 hours, also new hives can appear as old ones fade. Typically, breakouts of hives last for a few days. However, if you have hives that last longer than 6 weeks, you may have chronic hives. Some of the common triggers for hives include hot and cold temperatures, foods such as milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, and shellfish, insect bites and stings, animal dander, pollen, latex, chemicals, medication, stress, exercise, and sun exposure.

Unlike eczema and hives, sensitive skin is not a medical term used to describe a specific skin condition. Instead, sensitive skin is a generic term to describe a variety of skin conditions. If your skin is frequently irritated, itching, or reddened, especially after coming in contact with specific products, you likely have an underlying skin disorder or allergy to the product. Persons with eczema, acne, and rosacea may not tolerate harsher beauty products due to burning or itching experienced after application. Burning, redness, or itching after coming in contact with a product may be a result of contact dermatitis, a type of allergic reaction that occurs after the skin is exposed to the allergic substance. If you feel that your skin is sensitive to many products or frequently irritated, we recommend following up with your provider or allergist to help determine the source of the sensitivity and create a plan to optimize your skincare.

Does Keratosis Pilaris ever clear up? Can you mitigate it? Avoid it?

Keratosis Pilaris can clear up as a child ages without any form of treatment, but it can also continue to have periods of clear skin and flare-ups into middle-age. The exact cause of Keratosis Pilaris is not well understood, but there is thought to be a genetic cause with a mutation in a skin protein. You can help to reduce the number of potential flares by preventing the skin from drying out. This can be accomplished with the use of gentle soaps and detergents, avoiding hot showers and baths, and using emollients daily.

Is Vaseline bad for babies?

At this point in time, no serious or common reactions have been reported with the use of vaseline for any age. Vaseline and vaseline-like products such as Aquaphor are generally safe to use on babies. There is minimal systemic absorption of the product when used properly on the skin, which leads to a good safety profile. Although very rare, an allergic reaction to the product is the main adverse reaction that can occur in babies who use vaseline.

How do you soothe itching and redness on my baby’s skin?

If a baby has itching and redness, it is first best to avoid any triggers or irritants that may have caused the symptoms in the first place. These triggers can include tight clothing, heat or hot water, harsh detergents or soaps, dry skin, certain fabrics, exposure to dust mites, pollens, or other allergens. To soothe symptoms of itching and redness, promoting good skincare is key. The use of daily emollients like Aquaphor, CeraVe, Aveeno Baby, and other baby-friendly products are great options for accomplishing this. In general, an ointment like Aquaphor is going to provide the strongest moisturizing benefit, with cream in second, and a lotion providing the least benefit.

To help soak in moisture to soothe itching, a short warm soaking bath can be performed with mild soaps. Immediately after the bath, apply a moisturizer to trap moisture and reduce irritation and itching due to dry skin. Itching and redness can also be controlled with a low potency topical corticosteroid like hydrocortisone. The steroid will help to reduce swelling of the skin that is responsible for the symptoms and should not be used for more than 2 weeks at a time. If you are not seeing any improvement with the use of a topical steroid, consult your provider.

Oral antihistamines like Zyrtec can also safely be used in children 6 months of age and older to help relieve itching. If the child is mostly scratching at night try dosing before bed, or if the symptoms are primarily noted during the day you can dose in the morning. Any type of itching and redness that persists should be brought to the attention of your pediatrician or allergist. Redness and itching in the diaper area can be due to a fungal infection that requires treatment with antifungal medication and can be made worse by the use of a topical steroid. Many different types of skin conditions appear throughout childhood, many of which resolve on their own, and some of which require prescribed treatment. When unsure of which category your child’s skin redness and itching fall into, it is always best to seek consultation with a medical provider to ensure the safety of your child.

When do you start early allergen introduction?

The best time to introduce a baby to highly allergenic foods such as peanuts and tree nuts will depend on the baby’s risk factors for developing a food allergy. Before introducing any kind of solid foods into an infant’s diet, the child should show developmental readiness to consume solid foods. We also recommend introducing more typical solid foods like fruits, cereal, and vegetables before proceeding to highly allergenic foods such as peanuts and tree nuts.  In the case of infants without any personal or family history of eczema, or food allergies, the current recommendation is to introduce peanuts and tree nuts into the diet at 6 months of age. If the baby has a personal history of mild to moderate eczema and no history of food allergies, the current recommendation is also to introduce the nuts at home at 6 months of age. When introducing highly allergenic foods into the diet, we recommend having a children’s non-sedating antihistamine such as Children’s Zyrtec on hand.

A baby that has a family or a personal history of severe eczema or nut allergies is considered to be at an increased risk of developing a food allergy. Per the NIAID guidelines, it is recommended to start the early introduction of an age-appropriate amount of peanuts at 4-6 months after completing skin prick testing. The results may indicate that it is okay to introduce nuts into the diet at home, or they may indicate a need for a referral to an allergist for further instruction.

Will the baby react to breastmilk if I eat allergens?

Variable levels of a food allergy protein have been found to be detected in breastmilk after ingestion by the mother. There have been reports made of infantile eczema, anaphylaxis, and gastrointestinal distress being triggered from food allergy proteins ingested through breastmilk. It is best to have the infant tested for allergies to determine the severity of the food allergy. The results of these tests can help the allergist to provide guidelines for the breastfeeding mother on elimination, reduction, or safest ways to ingest foods that the infant is allergic to.

I am severely allergic to nuts. How do I go about nut introduction for my baby?

Your baby would be at an increased risk of developing a food allergy. To safely introduce nuts, we recommend that your child undergo allergy testing with an allergist. The allergist can use the results of these tests to determine the best plan of action for how it is safest to introduce nuts. In addition, we would recommend the parent should highly consider desensitization through oral immunotherapy (OIT) so that the parent is able to safely handle the nuts they are allergic to when introducing these foods to their baby.


The information on this website is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images, and information, contained on or available through this website is for general information purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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After spending over a decade overseas, Pauline was repatriated to the Bay Area in 2019 with her husband, a Bay Area native, and their son. Pauline grew up in Toronto and has held various corporate positions – from governance to marketing and public relations to brand management and strategy – in the themed attractions industry (the business of fun!). When she is not mom-ing at home and on SFBAM, Pauline enjoys traveling, photography, sports, music, going to the beach, and visiting theme parks.


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