How to Protect Your Baby's Skin this Winter
By Maureen Connolly
Winter can do a number on a baby's sensitive skin. Things like dry
indoor air and chilly outdoor temperatures can lead to chapping,
redness, and irritation. Dr. Terri A. Kahn, section head of pediatric
dermatology at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, recommends the
following for keeping your baby's skin healthy:
- Practice Smart Bathing Daily bathing is fine as long as you
follow a few rules. For starters, use tepid water and a lipid-free
liquid cleanser, such as Dove or fragrance-free Cetaphil. (Soaps
containing lipids are made with detergents, which remove a barrier on
the skin that helps to hold in water.) Since dry, indoor air can
trigger outbreaks of eczema, a condition marked by areas of red, scaly,
itchy skin on the face, elbows, knees, and neck, Dr. Kahn says you'll
want to use an antibacterial soap to help avoid secondary skin
infections. Two good antibacterial cleansers are Cetaphil and Oilatum
To avoid zapping moisture from your baby's skin, don't
keep him in the bath for more than 10 minutes. And once he's out, apply
a moisturizer within three minutes to help lock in water. (Be careful
to avoid the eye areas.) Good choices include Cetaphil and Vanicream
for sensitive skin, Lubriderm, Aveeno lotion, and even Vaseline or
Crisco shortening. "These last two products are also great for the
diaper area since they provide a protective film that helps prevent
irritation," says Dr. Kahn. "Just be sure to toss tubs every three
months since they can build up with bacteria."
- Use TLC for Runny Noses If a cold has left your little
guy's nose constantly running, avoid chapping and irritation by
applying a small amount of Vaseline or Aquaphor to the area just below
the nose a few times per day. (These two products also work well at
removing dried nasal mucus -- a.k.a. "crusty boogies" -- that
accumulate below the nose overnight or during a nap.) When wiping the
nose, use a tissue made with moisturizing lotion, such as Kleenex.
Since infants with eczema may carry a staph bacteria in their nose, if
you notice scabbing around the nostrils and mouth following a runny
nose, call your pediatrician who can prescribe a topical antibiotic to
help clear the infection.
- Don't Overheat Your Infant Babies under 6 months
can't regulate their body temperatures as well as adults, which is why
you'll want to dress them in one layer more than what you're
comfortable in. However, an infant that is overswaddled or who has too
many layers will become overheated, which can irritate the skin, and
lead to prickly heat. Prickly heat causes little red, itchy, pus bumps
on the upper trunk and body folds. These often clear up in a few days.
In the meantime, give your baby some relief by applying a cool wash
cloth to the affected area and allowing skin to get some air.
- Take Care with Clothing If your infant is prone to eczema,
you'll definitely want to take the following precautions (even
eczema-free infants will benefit from these tips): Try to choose
dye-free clothing and avoid synthetic fabrics. White or pastel-colored,
cotton clothing are best for baby. Wash clothes with a detergent-free
cleanser such as Dreft. Don't use dryer sheets, which leave an
irritating film on clothing. If you want to use fabric softener, add it
to the rinse cycle and double rinse.
- Report Problems to Your Pediatrician If you notice any raw,
weeping, broken down areas of skin, these are signs of infection. Call
your pediatrician who can prescribe a topical or oral treatment.