A baby’s skin can be very satisfying to stroke and cuddling a baby is something most people enjoy doing. This may be as a result of their smooth, velvety skin which has earned a popular comparison where a smooth surface is compared to be a baby’s bottom. However, sometimes, certain situations can arise that wreck havoc on the baby’s skin.
From the genetic dispositions to skin disorders, the weather, use of certain soaps and creams, clothing material, to unexplainable reasons, a baby’s once-silky skin can slowly become a shadow of itself. It is important that caregivers spot these disorders early and visit the paediatrician or dermatologist for treatment. As with all that concerns health, self-medication is not advised.
Infantile Seborrheic Dermatitis (ISD)
More commonly known as Eela in Yoruba or Nla in Igbo, this skin disorder appears in babies as early as a few weeks till about six months. It is important to note that this disorder is different from ringworm (known as lapalapa in Yoruba) or eczema (known as Ifo in Yoruba).
According to Dr Chika Ngozi Olomukoro, Consultant Paediatrician and Paediatric Dermatologist, “the cause of this disorder is unknown. This rash may be due to child’s response to some organisms in the oily areas of the body namely the scalp, eyebrows behind the ears, or on the neck, cheeks, chest skin folds and diaper area. It is characterised by scalyness. The skin appears fairer and may be reddish. On the scalp, there may a crusty or paste-like thick dandruff on the scalp (where it’s known as cradle cap).” With cradle cap, experts say the baby’s scalp would have flaky, dry skin that looks like dandruff, or thick, oily, yellowish or brown scaling or crusting patches. Although the cause is unknown, it has been established that poor hygiene is not a causative factor.
In some parts of Nigeria, ISD is treated with a herbal mixture derived from the Hibiscus leaves. However, experts recommend a visit to a paediatrician for proper diagnosis and prescription.
This skin disorder is commonly known as alefo in Yoruba. Dr Bamidele Owolabi, a medical practitioner, points out that “impetigo is a highly contagious skin infection caused by the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus or Streptococcus pyogenes. There are two kinds: non-bullous impetigo and bullous impetigo. Usually, the bacteria infects the baby through either a break in otherwise healthy skin – such as a cut, insect bite, sting or other injury – this is known as primary impetigo or through skin damaged by another underlying skin condition, such as head lice, scabies or eczema – this is known as secondary impetigo.
“It first appears as blisters around the baby’s nose and mouth, but it can spread to other parts of the body. Depending on the type of impetigo, the blisters may be tiny and burst easily, or be larger and take a few days to burst. Impetigo isn’t usually painful, but it can be itchy
“A baby could easily have picked up the bacteria if she was in close contact with someone who has impetigo. She could also have got impetigo by touching toys, clothing, or towels that an infected person has used.
“A child that’s infected should be taken to a paediatrician as with proper treatment, the baby should get better in a week to 10 days. If impetigo isn’t treated, other more serious conditions can sometimes develop.
“To reduce the risk of impetigo returning, make sure any cuts, scratches or bites are kept clean. Ensure any condition that causes broken skin, such as eczema, is treated promptly.”
Intertrigo is a common skin disorder that is found mainly in a baby’s skin folds, especially in the neck. Dr Olomukoro said, “It usually appears in chubby babies under six months. It is caused by rubbing of moist skin surfaces. Excessive moisture in these areas result from drool and spit-up that collect in your baby’s creases, which don’t get any air. It looks red, raw, and weepy. It is worse inside the skin creases. It may cause some pain, depending on the amount of skin-to-skin friction in the affected area. Where a baby already has this, wash out the inside of your baby’s skin folds with water and apply a zinc-oxide barrier cream, sudocrem or petroleum jelly to protect them. Keep this area clean. Change clothing including the bib when wet.”
This is another common rash in babies and may occur on the face, neck, back or bottom. Medical experts suspect that it is caused by blocked sweat glands. According to Dr Olomukoro, “it looks like tiny red bump and may contain small clear fluid. It is caused by anything that overheats your little one—hot, humid weather; overdressing him in tight clothing or overly warmly. The best way to prevent it is to avoid overdressing the baby; rather use loose cool clothing. Cool baths or sponge baths may help. Avoid overheating the environment. You may apply some cool prickly heat powders. Please, don’t use minty (hot) powders on infants.”
Commonly known as diaper rash, this disorder is caused mostly by the skin’s prolonged contact with urine and faeces. Dr Olomukoro stated, “it is more common from seven to 12 months when urine volume increases. Redness and tenderness is noticed in the areas of the body in contact with the diaper. In this state, the skin can become infected with bacteria or fungi, then redness is more and it can spread into the skin folds. When this occurs, there should be frequent change of diaper. Keep this area dry and free from irritants. Apply ointments such as Vaseline, Sudocrem. If no improvement in a few days, please see a doctor for further treatment.”
Dr Gbemisola Boyede, a Neurodevelopmental Paediatrician, adds that though some mothers apply engine oil and powder, especially native red powder, on the baby’s diaper area, the practice is not safe. “Powder is not advisable in the diaper area. As for engine oil, it may work because oil acts as a protective barrier against the irritant but it isn’t that decent. Please use Vaseline with a blue seal (unperfumed).”
Precaution in treatments for skin diseases in babies
Although, most of the aforementioned disorders may be harmless with only discomfort and unsightliness as the fallout, a visit to a paediatric dermatologist can ease the worry of concerned parents. Medical experts have raised concerns on self medicating, especially with dangerous chemicals, in a bid to treat affected babies. Dr Gbemisola Boyede said, “there is this culture of mixing regular baby’s body creams with prescription-only medication creams. Please, stop if you are doing this. Some mothers mix Funbact-A with their baby’s ori (shea butter). Some now add ampiclox, tetracycline etc also to the baby’s body cream. All these creams are medications and not routine body creams. A mere perusal of the packs of some of these medicated creams will show words like “antifungal,” “antibacterial”, “anti-inflammatory”. The constituents are drugs – antibiotics, antifungals and steroids! They are often prescribed for specific skin diseases and usually for a short duration only, not usually more than two weeks.
“In the insert (leaflet) for most of these creams, it is expressly stated not to be used as cosmetics. These are drugs with dangerous side-effects, especially the steroids which are easily absorbed into the bloodstream from the fragile skin of the newborns and babies, leading to serious side effects on the long terms including gastritis (stomach ulcers), wounds, poor growth and other sinister side effects.
“As much as possible, use natural products for your baby skin care like Vaseline, Shea butter, Olive oil and other routine baby care products. Use any of these medicated creams only on doctor’s prescription and for the duration recommended only. If your baby has any skin issues, please see your paediatrician or dermatologist for proper diagnosis and treatment.”