Teething is not as straightforward as you might think.
A whole raft of teething symptoms can emerge during this time, which includes irritability, biting objects, sleep disturbance, inflamed red gums, red cheeks, and sudden increase in dribbling or drooling.
Many parents attribute teething as the root cause of eczema outbreak in babies; eczema is a red, dry, itchy rash that can appear on a baby’s face, or behind the ears, in the creases of the neck, knees and elbows and is often called ‘teething rash’ or ‘drool rash’ in babies.
However, several medical research studies have shown that eczema is not caused by teething. Teething does aggravate the symptoms in babies who already have eczema.
That is because teething can trigger eczema flare-ups in babies, which stands to reason. Teething is a pretty unpleasant process for a small person to go through although, be reassured, we’ve all been there and may not remember much!
According to WebMD, around one person in every 10 has atopic dermatitis at some point during their life.
Six reasons why teething can trigger eczema
1. Weakened immunity
When a baby is teething, its immunity tends to be low, contributing to a flare-up.
2. Changes in the immune system
One scientific hypothesis is that the immune system of the baby actually undergoes changes during the process of teething. Tooth eruption causes a change in passive immunity to active immunity (when a baby develops antibodies).
Researchers at National Jewish Health led by Donald Leung, MD, PhD, have demonstrated that an immune system skewed toward allergy alters the lipids in the skin. The altered lipids cause the skin to crack, water to leave and irritants to enter, setting the stage for eczematous lesions to develop.
Teething can result in a rise in temperature and cold-like symptoms which can exacerbate the skin condition.
Saliva which builds up around the mouth can trigger eczema.
As much as you might soothe your baby during the teething process, the pain they are experiencing may create stress, which will also aggravate the condition.
The hormones which triggered the teething can also contribute to flare-ups.
According to the NHS, most babies eventually grow out of eczema, but while they have the condition you must guard against skin getting infected as it’s itchy and a small person will want to scratch the affected areas.
Treating Teething rash
Teething rash is probably the most common form of baby eczema and occurs because of constant drooling.
The saliva irritates the skin around the mouth, neck and chest and can cause an angry red rash that could be made even worse if your baby uses a dummy.
You’ll obviously want to keep a baby’s face dry as much as possible, but with a million and one other things to do this isn’t always the most practical solution.
According to the NCT, using a barrier cream like Vaseline or petroleum jelly can protect the mouth and chin.
Coconut oil, which is a non-petroleum based alternative, can also be effective as can a bib, although the latter must regularly be changed as it can get quickly soaked.
How to treat teething-related eczema flare-ups
- Applying an unperfumed moisturiser to the sore area every day, maybe when you feed or change your little one, will keep their skin moist. Just gently smooth the cream over the skin, rather than rub it in.
- Avoid bubbles in the bath or soap as certain products can dry or irritate the skin.
- Do not use aqueous cream as this can cause burning, stinging redness and itchiness.
- You can use a steroid cream but get advice from your doctor or pharmacist first.
- Keep your child’s bedroom cool, as being hot and sweaty can make eczema worse.
- Clothe your baby in cotton which is much kinder for an irritated skin than wool or synthetic fabrics.
- If your baby has trouble sleeping, you can ask your doctor for antihistamines to help reduce itching.
How to take care of the baby during teething?
Treating teething eczema flareups is very much similar to treating your child’s eczema. Natural remedies are obviously becoming increasingly popular for the treatment of eczema, especially for babies.
The simplest of natural remedies includes baking soda and colloidal oatmeal (a special oatmeal) that can be sprinkled into your baby’s bath as a natural eczema treatment.
You can also try treating the condition with lotions containing ingredients such as soothing calendula and chamomile, but please consult your paediatrician first.
If the teething pain doesn’t go away, you should try reducing the pain with topical numbing agents like teething gels you can purchase from pharmacies.
You can also use resting aids because resting reduces stress; therefore, you should encourage your child to sleep as much as he/she can.
Sleeping is not an easy feat when a baby is teething, however, finding a good sleep aid to help your baby to sleep well can alleviate some of the symptoms.
Gum massage is another teething remedy, that is rubbing the sore gum with a clean fingertip or very soft toothbrush for 1-2 minutes.
There are several ways to ease the teething process in babies with eczema apart from those discussed above.