Does my baby have atopic-prone skin?

Atopic-prone skin, also called atopic dermatitis, affects one child in five.1, but atopic doesn’t mean atypical. If the signs of this eczema are unpleasant (redness, itching sensations, dryness, etc.), they are not rare, nor contagious to other children, and not irreversible.

Written in partnership with Dr. Clarence De BELILOVSKY, dermatologist & member of the Mustela experts' circle.

The first signs 

Your baby wakes waking up during his nap, a bit grumpy, with tears in his eyes and quite red cheeks: Bad dreams? Too much heat? A bit hungry? Or is this the start of a flare-up, meaning probable atopic-prone skin symptoms? When you notice his redness and his bad mood, it is normal for doubts to arise.
At this age – atopic-prone skin usually occurs after two months of age – it of course impossible to ask him exactly how he feels. Some simple clues can help you make a first assessment:
- Is your partner or are you subject to atopic-prone skin?
Hereditary factors are surely the most revealing signs. This is very valuable information, since it will enable you to undertake preventive care, from birth onward, that could reduce the risk of your child developing atopic-prone skin by 33% to 50%1.
- If your baby’s skin is really dry you know it, because you can hydrate it as much as you like with moisturisers and it still remains rough. Some flaky skin may also begin to appear in certain areas. 
- Your baby has trouble falling asleep: it’s true that there can be many other reasons, but in addition to two or three other symptoms, these sleeping difficulties could be another indication (see My baby has trouble sleeping).
- Some red patches are starting to appear, especially on his chin, cheeks, arms and belly: there is almost no doubt that these signs are associated with atopic-prone skin. If some slight oozing appears on these patches, there is no further doubt:. this is a flare-up (see When can we hope for an improvement or the disappearance of atopic dermatitis?).

The first flare-ups

What exactly happens during a flare-up
The inflammation always occurs like this: at the beginning, your baby has some slight redness from scratching. This redness causes the skin to rise slightly, making it thicker. It can then produce small, slightly visible blisters. When the blisters start to ooze, a translucent liquid may appear: this blistering and oozing may crust over, and eventually disappear by itself. You don’t have to worry about it: regardless of the flare-up’s intensity, it will not leave any marks on the skin. You have to prevent your baby from scratching himself as much as possible in order to avoid  increasing unpleasant sensations or creatiing a secondary infection. How You can prevent this thanks to baby/child-specific care like an emollient balm or emollient cream and a few little tips that can soothe your baby’s skin (see Taking care of your atopic baby).

Atopic-prone skin, redness, allergies: ask your doctor for advice

As soon as you think that your child might have atopic-prone skin, the best thing to do is consult your paediatrician or general physician, first of all in order to confirm the diagnosis. If your child’s atopy is also occurring due to food allergies, your  doctor might refer you to a dermatologist or allergist. These specialists will be able to prescribe for you a special treatment to care for flare-ups. The rest of the time, that is to say in periods of respite, you can implement some little rituals that often work well to prevent flare-ups (see the article How to prevent atopic-prone skin). 
1 Source : Eric L. Simpson 2014, Horimukai 2014.

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