Eczema Flare-Up Causes in Babies: Pediatrician’s Advice

eczema in babies

What Is Eczema?

Before we talk about Eczema flare-ups causes in babies, it is important to understand how we medically define Eczema. Eczema is a term for several different kinds of skin problems. It most often appears as red, rough, dry, itchy, and sometimes flaky skin. It is also called atopic dermatitis. Roughly 60 percent of people with eczema develop it during their first year of life. Eczema will often appear in infancy and early childhood, usually before the age of 5. More than half of young children with eczema develop allergies and/or asthma by age 13. 

There is no cure for eczema but there are treatments and measures to prevent and relieve some symptoms. For approximately 60 percent of children, eczema will not persist into teenage years or adulthood, though their skin will often remain dry and sensitive throughout their life. The symptoms of eczema often look different for different people, so it’s important to examine how it manifests for your child specifically. 

When Does Eczema Flare in babies and kids

Eczema is a chronic condition that follows a relapsing-remitting pattern. People with eczema can go for periods of time with no symptoms sometimes years and then have periods of flare-ups.  Eczema in babies and kids can flare in the cold of the winter when the air is dry (especially with the heater blowing). Often the parts of the skin exposed to the elements will flare particularly bad, such as the hands and face. Wearing scarves, hats, and gloves can help reduce effects of the extreme changes in temperatures from the cold air outside and the heated indoors, which can irritate the skin. This can be a bit tricky as synthetic and harsh materials like wool or polyester can be irritating to skin predisposed to eczema. It’s best to cover a child’s skin with cool soft cotton and then cover with any other materials on top of the cotton clothing. 

 Eczema will also flare in the heat of the summer when our skin gets hot and sweaty. Air conditioning can also dry out the skin, as can sunburns, making sunscreen even more important when your child has eczema. (Only use sunscreen over the age of 6 months.) 

Where Does Eczema commonly Appear?

Eczema will often appear in creases of the elbows and knees and on the hands and feet in kids over the age of 2. Their rashes may turn lighter or darker or get thick and rough, and sometimes small bumps can appear and leak fluid if scratched. Infants under the age of 2 might get eczema on their cheeks, forehead, and face because of exposure to saliva, dribbles of milk, and constant wiping. A baby will often seem fussier and constantly rub at their cheeks or body where their skin is bothering them. 


Eczema in infants

Eczema shows up as itchy, rough patches of red or dry skin. The cradle cap is much less red and scaly. It usually appears on the scalp, but can also appear on the sides of the nose, eyelids, eyebrows, and behind the ears. Most often, the cradle cap will clear up by itself in the first few months of life. Also, as a general rule of thumb, if it doesn’t itch or irritate your child, it probably isn’t eczema. 

ECZEMA FLARE-Up causes in children

Main causes of eczema flares in babies and kids are discussed under. Let’s take a look at them one by one.  

Exposure to Foods

One possible cause is exposure to certain foods. About 30 percent of babies with eczema also have food allergies. Peanuts, milk, soy, eggs, wheat, and fish are common culprits. If an infant is breastfeeding, it’s important to remember that a mother’s diet can impact her baby’s skin.  

Seasonal Allergies

Seasonal allergies can also lead to flare-ups. In fact, allergies, asthma, and eczema can all be triggered by exposure to allergens. Flare-ups may be more or less intense depending on how your child’s immune system reacts to triggers like allergens. 

Bubble baths

Bubble baths and bath bombs can cause the skin to react to the chemicals in their dyes and fragrances. 

Chlorine in pools

Chlorine in pools or hot water in hot tubs also might affect sensitive skin. It’s best to bathe immediately after swimming to reduce the effect of these chemicals. 

Synthetic or harsh fabrics

Synthetic or harsh fabrics like polyester, nylon, or wool directly against the skin can cause irritation. It’s best to have soothing, soft cotton directly next to the skin if children have eczema. It’s also a good idea to wash all new clothes before wearing them and use detergents without perfumes and dyes. 


Even stress can cause eczema to flare up for some people.

cold sores

Make sure to keep your child away from anyone with cold sores, as this virus can cause an intensified skin infection in children with eczema. 

Keeping track of the possible Eczema flare-up causes in babies and kids can help you understand the flare-ups better. Keep in mind that eczema can flare up sometime after exposure to a trigger, which makes them difficult to pin down. Try cutting out certain foods, chemicals, or fabrics one at a time to see if it helps keep your child’s condition under control. 


There are several simple things you can do at home to help your child’s irritated skin. Below are some helpful suggestions: 

Bathe your child

Bathe your child in lukewarm water every day for no more than 10 minutes to help the skin absorb the moisture it needs. Make sure the water is not hot, as this will dry up and irritate their skin even more. 

Use a hypoallergenic Soap

Use a hypoallergenic, fragrance- and dye-free moisturizing soap like plain white Dove when you bathe your child. 

Pat your child dry after baths

Pat your child dry after baths and trap the moisture from the water in place with hypoallergenic, fragrance- and dye-free lotion from their face to their toes within 2 to 3 minutes of getting them out of the bath. Good lotions to try are Eucerin, Aveeno, Aquaphor, or Cetaphil. Finding the right lotion or cream may be a process of trial and error, but give any product at least 1-2 weeks before trying something else. It will take time for your child’s skin to heal. 

Moisturize child’s skin

Moisturize your child’s skin with the same lotion again at the opposite end of the day.  

Use a cool mist humidifier

Use a cool mist humidifier, especially in cold and dry weather. 

Cut your child’s fingernails

Cut your child’s fingernails to prevent them from breaking the skin when they scratch. Scratching can worsen the irritation on their skin, so it’s good to discourage them from doing so as much as possible. For infants, scratch mittens can help prevent further irritation as well. 

Apply Hydrocortisone cream on flare-ups

Apply over-the-counter 1% Hydrocortisone cream to areas of flare-ups twice a day for 7 to 10 days underneath the lotion to reduce itching and redness. Don’t apply hydrocortisone cream to your child’s diaper area or near the eyes without first checking with your physician. Also make sure not to use these creams too long as they can thin the skin in the affected area. If over-the-counter options don’t work after 1-2 weeks, see your doctor and ask about a prescription for a stronger steroid cream or other management options. 

oral antihistamine

Your child’s doctor may recommend an oral antihistamine to reduce itching and flares, or moist wraps to help hydrate the skin. 

diluted bleach baths

If directed by a physician, you may use diluted bleach baths one to two times a week to reduce bacteria on the skin that cause infection in areas of dry and irritated skin.


No. Eczema in infants is not contagious and it cannot be transmitted to others.


Yes. Oftentimes, eczema, like allergies and asthma, tends to run in families. Eczema often comes from having an overactive immune system that produces inflammation when triggered. Some people with eczema have a mutation of the gene that is supposed to help their bodies maintain a healthy protective barrier on the top layer of the skin, allowing moisture to escape and germs to enter, leading to dry and infection-prone skin. 


20% of African-American children in the United States have eczema, meaning it is more likely to affect Black children than those of other racial backgrounds. Black people are also more likely to develop more severe forms of eczema. On Black skin, eczema can appear dark brown, purple, or gray instead of red. People with Black skin are also more likely to experience dark, dry, and itchy circles around their eyes. They often develop small bumps on the torso, arms, and legs that resemble permanent goosebumps.

When Should You Seek Medical Attention?

Consult your Pediatrician if your child’s eczema is so uncomfortable that their condition is affecting their sleep or daily activities, or they develop any of these symptoms:

  • A fever of more than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit
  • The rash on the skin starts looking puffy, red, warm, or painful to touch
  • The rash starts spreading in streaks 
  • You notice pus draining from bumps around areas of eczema in babies


Eczema can be very manageable for most children with the right combination of prevention and treatment. The great thing is that though it presents early in life for many kids, it tends to get better with age. It may not be easy to figure out the exact Eczema flare-Up causes in babies and kids, so it often helps to talk to a medical professional. If you have any questions or concerns about your child’s skin, do not hesitate to consult your pediatrician or reach out to BabiesMD.


Privacy Preferences
When you visit our website, it may store information through your browser from specific services, usually in form of cookies. Here you can change your privacy preferences. Please note that blocking some types of cookies may impact your experience on our website and the services we offer.