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My Child's Health  >>  Skin Problems

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In this video, Dr. Huntoon discusses Acne and the reasons behind it.

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Skin Problems

Written by Randall Neustaedter, OMD

The Alternative Perspective

The eyes may be the windows to the soul, but for babies the skin is the window to the Immune System.  Babies are born with clear skin, then the fun begins--baby acne, rashes, cradle cap, and eczema.  Fortunately, a holistic approach is very effective in addressing these sometimes very troublesome problems.

Your Sensitive Baby

Homeopathic theory understands that the body wantts to keep balances and disease processes at the most superficial level possible.  Babies tend to express their first symptom of these imbalances or illnesses in the skin because the skin is the most superficial level of the body.  If these symptoms are supressed, as they would be with the steroid drugs such as hydrocortisone, then the symptoms will come back or appear at a deeper level, usually in the form of other allergies.  The theory was formally expounded and demonstrated by Sammuel Hahnemann in his seminal 1883 work, The Organon of Medicine.

Babies also run hot and develop inflammations easily.  Their immune systems are not fully developed, and they have few mechanisms for preventing inflammatory reactions.  Babies' livers are immature and do not metabolize toxic chemicals that irritate the skin.  Their skin is delecate and easily irritated, and they quickly develop allergic reactions.  In the following information we'll examine the most common skin problems that develop in babies during their first year, including baby acne, cradle cap, diaper rash, and eczema.  We'll be spending the most time on eczema, as it is one of the more troublesome skin problems your baby nmay express.

Baby Acne

Just when you thought everything was going well with your beautiful new baby and all of the relatives are coming into town for a visit, he starts to breaking out in pimples.  Around two or three weeks of age, about 20 percent of babies start to break out with red bumps or whiteheads on the face and neck.  There are several theories regarding the cause of acne in babies.  These pimples may occur because of changes in maternal hormones during late pregnancy or withdrawal of the natural estrogens in your blood stream after your baby's birth.  This temporary imbalance of male and female hormones may stimulate the oil glands in the skin.  One study showed correlation between the mother's level od subaceous gland activity (the gland that produces oil in the skin) and her baby's secretion of sebum in these same glands, suggesting a correlation between baby acne and maternal hormones (Henderson, Taylor, and Cunliffe 2000).

Some studies have shown the majority of infants with acne have a type of yeast growth on their skin, either Malassezia furfur or Malassezia sympodialis.  But others have found no association with these forms of yeast and the degree of severity of acne in infants (Anhan et al. 2007).

Treatment of Acne

Regardless of the causes, baby acne is a harmless condition that will fade away by the time your baby is three or four months old, though it can come and go over this period of time.  No specific treatment is needed for these pimples.

Prevention of Acne

Giving your baby a probiotic supplement of Bifidobacterium (the predominant beneficial intestinal bacteris in babies) may be helpful for its anti-inflammatory effect, and mothers who take an omega-3 fish oil supplement will transfer these fats to their babies through breast milk and have the same effect.  Babies who are fed formula should always be supplemented with fish oil.

Cradle Cap

If your baby has dry flakes or unsightly yellow or oily scales on his scapl, your're dealing with cradle cap.  This is a harmless condition otherwise known as infantile suborrheic dermatitis.  Regardless of its somewhat cute name, cradle cap can be annoying and persistent, even into toddler years and beyond.  The intuitive strategy of continually rubbing the craddle cap off your baby's scalp is not usually effective.  And, because it is already oily, the common practice of coating it with oil and trying to rub it off may make it even worse.

Treatment of Cradle cap

Like other skin conditions in children, a problem with conversion of essential fatty acids may have a role in cradle cap.  One of these essentila fatty acids, linoleic acid, amy not be converted to ganmma-linolenic acid (GLA) because of an enzyme deficiency.  GLA is important for healthy skin function.  There is some evidence that suggests temporay deficiency in this enzyme is associated with cradle cap in infants ( Tolleson et al. 1993) so supplementing babies with GLA is an important part of the treatment for cradle cap.  GLA is available as a supplement in the form of borage-seed oil or evening primrose oil.  Applying borage-seed oil directly to the scalp can also be beneficial (Tollesson and Frithz 1993).

Other external applications may help.  In a study of patients with suborrheic dermatitis (the grown-up version of cradle cap) an extract of aloe vera applied to the scalp proved effective in relief of symptoms in 62 percent of the treatment group compared to improvement in only 25 percent of the control group, who used a placebo cream (Vardy et al. 1999).

For breastfed babies, mom can also try eliminating foods from their diet that may have a role in allergic reactions.  One study found an improvement in infants' cradle cap when their mothers eliminated allergenic foods (especially milk, wheat, and eggs) from their diets (Eppig 1971).

Diaper Rashes

Diaper rashes come in two forms: Irritation (often from chemicals) and an overgrowth of yeast or bacteria on the skin.  Irritation can occur as a result of a wet or soiled diaper left on your baby for too long or from chemical residue from laundering diapers or a chemical contained in disposable diapers.  Your baby's skin can be easily chafed just by rubbing or from scooting around in a diaper.  Sooner or later you are likey to see a rash on your baby's bottom.

Treatment of Diaper Rash

Diaper rash is annoying, but not dangerous.  It is rare for an irritation to become infected with bacteria.  Irritated skin willusually respond to elimination of irritants, application of soothing creams or ointments, and exposurte to air.  Avoid topical products that contain preservatives (parabens), perfumes, and other petrochemicals because they are absorbed through the baby's skin into his bloodstream.  These petrochemicals could have hormone-disrupting effects (Oishi 2002).

Use products that contain calendula and other soothing herbs and lanolin (like Lansinoh) to calm irritated skin.  Using a natural zinc-oxide diaper cream like the products made by Weleda will help to create a barrier for the skin so that urine will not come in contact with the rash.  Avoid products with lavender because of its potential to cause estrogenic effects.  Lavender is suspected of being a potent plant estrogen source (Henley et al. 2007), and the less estrogen exposure your baby has the better.  Estrogen promotes abnormal tissue growth and is therefore a carsinogen.

Prevention of Diaper Rash

The first issue to consider is hygeine.  Keep your baby's bottom clean.  Rashes can develop from bacteria that perforate on the skin where there is moisture.  Change your baby's diaper as soon as he poops and at least every two hours.  Make sure that you wipe away all traces of poop, and if your baby is a girl, especially in the folds between her legs.  Leep the creases of your baby's neck clean as well.  The milk that drips down from nursing can leave sugar residues that promote bacterial growth there too.

Leave your baby's diaper off for a period of time each day if possible, and certainly if he has a rash.  Exposure to air and to sun will help heal the skin.  Yeast especially likes warm, moist, dark places, and sun exposure will discourage yeast growth.  Your baby can be left in the sun for extended periods of time if the sunlight is filtered through window glass, which absorbs most of the UV light.  And limiting direct sun exposure to twenty minutes will prevent sunburn.

Some foods may be irritating to your baby's bottom.  Think of this possibility when a rash appears around your baby's anus.  When introducing a new solid, watch for rashes around your baby's mouth and anus.  Eliminate the offender for a couple of months, then try it again.  Acidic foods like oranges and tomatoes can be irritating, and it is best to wait until your baby is twelve months old before introducing these.  Other raw fruits such as melons and strawberries can produce similar reactions.  During the first few months of introducing solids, stick to bananas, carrots, yams, green vegetables, and applesause.  Gradually, you can then introduce more foods in the form of pureed soups.  Wait until twelve months for any nuts. 

Yeast Rashes

Your baby's skin is easily colonized with yeast, and some babies are more prone to yeast diaper rashes than other babies.  A rash caused by yeast appears as circumscribed areas of redeness that spread, and these areas are often surrounded at their edges by many red dots.  A yeast rash can also look bright red, scalded skin.  You can see examples by doing an image search on the internet for Yeast Diaper Rash.  Leaving your baby in a wet diaper or wet swimming suit will encourage yeast, while open air and the sun will discourage it.  But once yeast occur, they can be stubborn, and they are usually unresponsive to calendula and other soothing creams.  You will need to get more aggressive with these rashes.

Treatment of Yeast Rashes

Treating a yeast rash involves using topical applications that discourage yeast and using internal treatments that create an environment that does not allow yeast to proliferate.  For babies, this usually means using probiotic powder both ingested and mixed with a cream for external applications to the skin.  The yeast product Saccaromyces boulardii will help fight off candidia (an overgrowth of yeast) in the gut.  Giving your baby a medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil derived from coconuts will also discourage yeast as a result of the caprylic acid in the oil.

Mix the oil in some pureed food or just give it straight on a spoon or medicine dropper.  MCT oil is derived from coconut oil, which itself has important health benefits, especially for the immune system.  But MCT oil is also specific for controling yeast.

For external treatment, add a probiotic powder to your diaper cream and apply Chinese herbal preparation that drains Dampness and clears Heat.  An excellent product is Yin-Care solution, available to licensed practitioners through Yoa Company at www.yincare.com.  Thes products will help to prevent recurrences of yeast.  Over-the-counter antifungal creams may improve the rash, but the symptoms often return unless you address the internal environment that makes your baby susceptible to yeast.  In severe cases of yeast rashes, you will want to consult with a Holistic Pediatric practitioner to help you develop more intensive treatment.

Prevention of Yeast rashes

If you expose your baby's bottom to the air for a period of time whenever possible, that will help to prevent yeast rashes.  Make sure to change your baby's diaper as soon as you can after it is wet or soiled.

Eczema

Eczema, an allergic skin eruption, goes by several different names that all mean the same thing.  Atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, and eczema are all synonyms for allergic skin reactions that often start in infancy, and in most children with eczema will develop symptoms by six months of age.  Eczema occurs in the form of dry and red eruptions on the cheeks or in dry patches on the trunk and extremities in infants.  In older babies and toddlers, it occurs more often in the flexures of the elbows and knees or other folds of skin (neck, ankles, and wrists).  The flexures (the places where the joints bend) are a site of friction between two skin surfaces, and they tend to be moist and hot.  In Chinese medicine, eczema is characterized as a disease of Heat and Damp.  It's often itchy in older babies, and they rub their faces on bedding and on your clothing to get some relief.  Often itching becomes awful, keeping babies awake at night and disturbing everyone's sleep.  As eczema worsens, the skin cracks, becomes raw, and even bleeds, as it may ooze a fluid discharge that dries as yellow crusts.  Eczema can be mild and rashy or severe and infected.  A baby with very rosy cheeks may be in the beginning stages of eczema, a precursor to a worsening of the skin symptoms and other allergies as well.

Whatever the stage or severity, these symptoms need to be treated because they are a sign of an internal immune-system imbalance that may manifest in other ways as well.  As the problems worsen, symptoms move from the skin inward to the respiratory mucous membranes and the lungs.  Thus eczema may progress to asthmaand to hay fever as children get older.  This constellation of symptoms in children is known as atopy or atopic disease, a phase that refers to the allergic process that causes these different symptoms at different ages.

Why Eczema Skin Erruptions Occur

Some babies develop eczema and others do not, and there are several predisposing and precipitating causes that we can discuss.  These factors may increase the risk of babies acquiring eczema, but sometimes we just don't know why the individual baby develops these skin symptoms when his siblings are free from skin problems.

Vaccinations

If your baby has a family history of allergies, eczema, or asthma, then he is at a higher risk of developing eczema, since these eruptions are a sign of allergic reactions.  The offending allergen may be easy to identify, and tests for allergens may not be accurate in small babies.  Genetic tendencies make babies more susceptable to allergies and eczema, but often some stress to the immune system throws babies into an allergic mode of reacting.  Environmental and physical stress play a major role, especially when combined with a genetic predisposition.  Several studies have shown a higher incidence of allergies, including eczema and asthma, in vaccinated compared to unvaccinated children.  Before agreeing to vaccinations for your baby, you should consider the risks involved.  Infants in their first year have more reactions to vaccines than older children. 

Allergens

Another stress that can shift babies into allergic reactions is exposure to protein that trigger antibody response.  Sometimes exposure can come from the foods a breastfeeding mother has eaten.  Introducing allergenic solid foods at too young an age can also develop these allergic and hypersensativity reactions than others, depending on the nutritional status, prenatal environment, and genetics.

Avoiding the early introduction of solids and delaying allergenic foods such as grains, egg whites, and dairy products until babies are at least 12 months old will help to prevent these allergic reactions.  If babies already have eczema, then stopping these foods is essential.  The early introduction of grains and other solids has been associated with the development of eczema in babies (Forsyth et al. 1993; Morgan et al. 2004).  However, other studies have not found that earlier introduction of solids has an effect.  Perhaps the conflicting nature of these studies points to other contibuting causes for eczema.

The Gut Connection

Besides vaccines, the most frequent contributing cause of eczema is the presence of gut irritation and consequent allergies.  A baby with digestive problems is more likely to develop eczema.  Irritation of the intestinal lining, typically caused by food molecules contained in breast milk or foods in your baby's diet, may damage the delicate cells that provide an important barrier between the food in the digestive tract andf the blood stream.  If large protein molecules leak through a damaged intestinal wall, they can trigger a reaction to these foreign molecules, and antibodies form against them.  These antibodies then trigger the inflammatory reactions of eczema ( redness, heat, and swelling).  Eczema is often the first sign of Leaky Gut Syndrome, otherwise known as impaired intestinal permiability, in babies.  If the offending foods are continued, then damage continues to occur in the intestinal lining and healing does not take place.  But once the irritating foods are removed, cells in the intestinal lining are rapidly replaced with new, healthy cells and the protective intestinal barrier is reestablished.

Treatment of Eczema

There are many things you can do to soothe your baby's eczema and help him overcome it once and for all.

  • Avoid Triggers
  • Be selective with External Applications
  • Avoid drugs


Prevention of Eczema

Stop eczema before it starts.  The first key to prevention of skin problems is nutrition.  If mom has a healthy diet with an adequate nutrient intake, then baby is less likely to develop skin problems.  Eating a whole-foods diet during pregnancy and taking the right nutritional supplements will ensure the best possible outcome from a nutrient perspective.  A whole-foods diet consists primarily of foods in their natural state, including fruits, vegetables, and animal products, with minimal amount of packaged and processed foods.  Many studies have shown that babies born to mothers who took a probiotic supplement during pregnancy have less eczema.

Traditional Medical Treatment Options and Diagnosis
Your Solution

For more information on these topics, consider purchasing Randall Neustaedter, OMD's book "The Holistic Baby Guide: Alternative Care for Common Health Problems.

Working with a Holistic Chiropractor before, during and after your pregnancy will help to eliminate these concerns because the mother will not create the foundation for the baby having and expressing these health imbalances.  Certainly everything contained in this article is valid, and prevention is key to all health.  

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