One common concern that frequently pops up in my mummy groups is this: Baby has a dry, scaly rash – typically on the cheeks, but it could be on the arms, legs, chest and other parts of the body too. Sometimes its oozing and inflamed, exacerbated by the child’s scratching. Sometimes it seems like baby is so irritated by it they can’t sleep.
Some wonder if its a milk rash, others believe its a heat rash, but most of the time, it’s eczema. More than 20 percent of children suffer from this uncomfortable skin condition (also called atopic dermatitis). After a child’s first year, the rash is more likely to show up on the insides of the elbows, the backs of the knees, the wrists, and the ankles, but it can also appear elsewhere.
While my baby is thankfully rash-free, I had eczema as a kid and it was pretty bad. Both my hands were covered in horrible itching patches that were simultaneously dry and oozing. Every day was a battle against the itch and needless to say, I hated to shake hands.
The worst thing about it is that even doctors don’t know for sure what causes it. There is some correlation between eczema and allergies, and it may be more likely to occur if there is a family history of eczema, asthma, allergies and dry skin. It could be triggered by heat, consumptions of certain foods, or even stress. And it can come back again and again well into adulthood.
But now, a recent breakthrough suggests that the most reliable and affordable solution to eczema may already be in your bathroom or medicine cabinet: petroleum jelly, more commonly known as Vaseline.
Research by Dr Steve Xu from the Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine shows that applying petroleum jelly on babies for the first six months cuts their risk of developing eczema in half.
“We could really save a lot of newborns ― and save families ― a lot of suffering,” Xu told the Huffington Post. “It’s also a pretty good deal in terms of cost.”
We all know special skin treatment creams cost a pretty penny. When your baby has eczema and needs these creams constantly, that could cause a real dint in your wallet. But Vaseline retails in Malaysia for RM12 per 150g.
You can of course use any moisturiser of your choice, or even oils like sunflower seed oil, but petroleum jelly is a great choice because its safe. Its fragrance-free and doesn’t have preservatives or additives that could potentially cause irritation or other allergies.