Seeing your baby’s skin itchy and rashy can break your heart. Not knowing the exact cause of the irritation can be frustrating. But a rash on your baby’s skin may be the first indication she is allergic to something.
For preemies, allergies can be even more challenging than otherwise.
Allergies are essentially an immune response.
When it comes to immunity, our largest organ (the skin) is our first line of defense. What looks like a rash may in fact be an allergic reaction.
When most people think of allergies, they typically picture hay fever-like symptoms: watery eyes, runny noses, and lots of sneezing.
But allergic reactions can take many forms and be triggered by innumerable things, including something your baby may have touched, eaten, or that is just in the air itself. Skin rashes caused by allergies are usually labeled “atopic dermatitis.”
Skin Allergy vs. Skin Irritation
The number of newborns experiencing skin disorders is on the rise—and preemies, with their thin, still-growing, and extra porous skin are very susceptible to skin issues.
Because new baby skin is porous, it can allow contaminants to enter the body at an alarming rate.
The skin is susceptible to all kinds of environmental toxins, from ammonia in cleaning supplies to off-gassing from foam mattresses.
As the parent of a tender preemie, you can protect your little one by carefully choosing toiletry products, bedding, and clothing that are free of the toxins that can directly enter through your baby’s skin.
When your baby has a rash, this awareness becomes even more important in deciding how to treat her compromised skin.
A skin allergy often causes chronic dry skin, intense itching, or a red bumpy rash.
Often labeled as eczema—a catchall term that includes a variety of skin rashes and problems—this skin allergy is a specific reaction caused by an immune response to certain substances.
In children, up to 90% of food allergies are caused by exposure to common foods like milk, eggs, peanuts, wheat, soy, and/or tree nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans, etc.).
Strong signs of a food allergy include skin rash, vomiting, swelling of the tongue and throat, and hives.
More serious problems might include severe reactions like anaphylaxis (a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction) and must be treated immediately.
A food allergy can appear immediately or up to two hours after eating some foods, and doesn’t have to have extreme symptoms.
Breastfeeding infants sometimes have a rash or other allergic reaction to foods their mother is eating. So if your breastfeeding baby suddenly develops a rash, review what you recently ate.
A skin irritation is a reaction that doesn’t necessarily mean your baby is allergic.
Sometimes called “contact dermatitis,” this is a red, itchy, weepy reaction where the skin has come into contact with a substance the immune system recognizes as foreign.
It could be from harsh detergents, artificial fragrances in soaps or lotions, or a reaction to a chemical in an everyday household product like a countertop cleanser.
Some children even end up with diaper rash simply from being sensitive to the type of diaper they wear. Watch for this with your little preemie, whose delicate skin may react to the slightest of things.
The more natural and allergen-free products you can use in your home, the less likely your child will experience allergen or irritation triggers.
Baby Skin Allergy Treatment
Taming allergic responses and preventing future flare-ups requires identifying what the triggers are and avoiding exposure to them.
There is a demonstrated link between babies who have true skin allergies and those who develop allergic rhinitis or asthma as they get older.
An allergist can do a skin prick test or a blood test to determine if your baby is allergic to some of the most common food and environmental triggers.
Ideally, skincare and treatments work together. Medical treatment essentially comes in three forms:
- Antihistamines to slow down the allergic response.
- Itch creams to reduce the risk of scratching that can lead to infection.
- Steroids to reduce inflammation.
Work with your doctor to use pharmaceuticals as sparingly as possible because they all have varying side effects.
When it comes to caring for allergenic skin, the best approach is cleanse gently with allergen-free products, like BEB Organic Bubbly Wash, that clean while nourishing the skin with vitamins and minerals. Protect from exposure to potential inflammation with balms or salves made with gentle and protective ingredients—like our Silky Cream and Diaper Balm.
Fruit butters and nourishing skin oils like those included in our Diaper Balm and Nurturing Oil naturally create an extra barrier to keep allergy-prone baby skin insulated from common irritants like pollen and dust mites.
When you’re shopping for soaps, baby shampoos, and lotions, look for natural ingredients that you recognize.
If the ingredients are too hard to pronounce, you can bet they’re probably made with chemicals and fragrances that will challenge your baby’s immune system, rather than support it.
Q: If it isn’t a food allergy, what’s causing my baby’s rash?
A: In addition to food, your baby’s eczema can be exacerbated by a number of things such as:
- Physical irritants (like sweat, excess dryness, fragrances, or clothing laundered with harsh detergents)
- Airborne allergens like pet dander, dust and pollen
- Possible infection
Be sure to use products on your child’s skin that nourish and defend. Products that are as natural and free of potential contaminants as possible avoid exacerbating the problem.
Q: My child has a sensitivity to gluten, do I need to avoid wheat when it comes to his grooming products?
A: Some people develop a form of celiac disease called “dermatitis herpetiformis,” which causes an itchy, blistering rash that is also linked to gluten intolerance.
Although reactions to gluten are mainly caused by ingesting wheat proteins, it’s best to avoid using any products that might contain wheat, as even a tiny bit could cause a reaction.
Your delicate preemie could be even more sensitive than a healthy newborn, so taking this extra measure potentially protects from challenges to preemies working hard to grow strong. When it comes to kids, much of what they touch ends up in their mouth.
It’s near impossible to bathe a kid without at least a few drops of water ending up on their mouth. For this reason, use gluten-free cleanser, lotions and sunscreens. All our BEB Organic products—Bubbly Wash, Diaper Balm, Silky Cream, Nurturing Oil, and Soothing Serum (formerly Healing Gel)—are gluten-free.
Q: My child doesn’t have any rashes or skin problems so why does it matter what kind of skin care products I use on her?
A: What goes on your body can have as much impact on your health as what goes in your body.
Babies come into the world naked and vulnerable, suddenly exposed to a new and challenging environment. For newborns, adjusting to life outside the womb begins with the first breath and shortly thereafter, with the first bath.
Traditionally, the products used at this milestone event are chemically-derived.
Given the transdermal properties of baby’s incredibly delicate skin—it’s as much as five times thinner than adult skin, and a preemie’s is even more so—there is a risk of those chemicals finding their way into the body where they may have unintended health consequences.
All BEB Organic products combine advanced skincare technology with healthy ingredients—including probiotics, neem oil, and botanically-sourced essential fatty acids and antioxidants.
Each one helps enhance skin immunity and defend against daily environmental challenges from water, sun, and air.
- National Institutes of Health, Discovery Health, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine
Ezcema and hand dermatitis. In: Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 3.
- Atopic dermatitis. In: Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 5.
- Greer, FR., Sicherer, SH., Burks, W. and the Committee on Nutrition and Section on Allergy and Immunology. Effects of early nutritional interventions on the development of atopic disease in infants and children: The role of maternal dietary restriction, breastfeeding, timing of introduction of complementary foods, and hydrolyzed formulas. Pediatrics. 2008;121:183-191.
- Lewis-Jones S, Mugglestone MA; Guideline Development Group. Management of atopic eczema in children aged up to 12 years: summary of NICE guidance. BMJ. 2007;335:1263-1264.