Every time worried parents bring their babies with skin problems to the clinic I remember my grandmother and her stories of how she ‘treated’ the baby in distress(often that baby was me). Baby is crying... gripe water. Baby has dry skin... apply coconut oil. Baby has fever... use wet handkerchiefs on forehead to bring it down till you get to see a doctor. Although Dadi’s Potli does work at times, there are instances where nothing works for which you need to see a dermatologist and not dilly dally.
Here are a few diseases that you budding & doting parents should know of, so that you can prevent them and more importantly, know when to go to a dermatologist and not dilly dally.
Commonly affects newborns but can be seen even in infants. Thick, yellowish brown crusts cover parts of the scalp or the entire scalp at times. The baby isn’t uneasy but it’s parents certainly are.
What you can try: If there is only a tiny patch, you could try apply coconut oil (no, not any other oil) 15 min before you give the baby a head bath. Do not massage (because massaging is not the solution to everything!). The oil softens the crusts and thus it is easier to wash them off while shampooing the baby’s scalp.
When to go a dermatologist: When you don’t see the baby’s scalp and see only crusts! At this stage an anti-dandruff shampoo (no not the ones that you see on TV commercials) are needed, for which you will need to consult a dermatologist and refrain from experimenting at home.
Caused by prolonged exposure to a soiled diaper. The diaper covered areas like the groins, buttocks and genitals are the most affected. The faeces and the urine contain certain substances that can literally ‘eat through’ (cause severe irritation) your baby’s skin. If neglected, then what develops is DIAPER DERMATITIS where the skin becomes angry red and starts oozing.
What you can to do prevent it: Use tap water to clean the area and ‘dab’ the area completely dry. Use a good moisturizing cream immediately and use powder (preferably talc free) to soak the sweat that occurs under the diaper. And change diapers as many times as possible! No matter how ‘super duper absorbing’ they are, they still remain moist. So don’t believe what all the diaper manufacturers say. The best thing that you can do: use ‘Langots’... Loin cloths! Unlike the diapers, it’s easier to know when a langot soiled and thus are changed on time! Yes, it is cumbersome to use them... but then what is more important... your convenience or the baby’s comfort? You could stick to using diapers when you are going out.
When to go to a dermatologist: When there is oozing and crusting and severe redness on the skin under the diaper. I have seen parents constantly wash the area with hot water, scrub it with a towel and use wet wipes! Please... do not do any of those things! Especially wet wipes! They have alcohol in them and using them leaves the skin very dry and more susceptible to the irritating effects of the urine and faeces. So rush to a dermatologist since only the use of topical steroids will alleviate the skin rash.
Like adults suffer from prickly heat (miliaria as we call it in the medical lingo), so do babies. It can affect the face, neck, back and bottom. Tiny red vesicles are seen on an inflamed skin and the baby tends to become irritable (cries more than usual).
What you can do to prevent: Please don’t wrap up the baby like you are wrapping up a gift! I have seen parents wrap up the baby so tight that it cannot move its hands or legs, all due to the fear that the baby will catch a cold. Yes, that would be true if we were living in place like say... Alaska! But we live in a tropical hot country like India, where even in the winters (barring a few places) aren’t that cold. So please let the baby’s skin breathe a little. It sweats too and needs ventilation. The sweat actually helps the baby cool off and feel relaxed. Also, avoid using hats and gloves!(I have seen parents using them for babies in Mumbai!). The other unwarranted fear I have seen in patients is of using the ceiling fan when the baby is in the room. I have seen babies sweat buckets and parents refusing to turn the fan on. Use the fan without fear.
When to go to a dermatologist: When the baby is already cranky and crying and you see a red rash covering it’s body. Refrain from using ‘home remedies’ or ‘oil massages’.
A lot of viral infections can occur at this age. Usually the infections are characterised by a vesicular rash(chicken pox), red papular rash(measles) or red patch on the cheek (due to Parvo vius) etc. Fever is a common association along with vomiting, diarrhoea and an irritable child.
Here it is imperative that you visit your paediatrician and dermatologist at the same time. Timely intervention is needed.
I hope that I have clarified a few, if not all things, with you 'Newly born parents'!
Babies aren’t the best of speakers (how wonderful if they could speak straight out the womb!) which is why you need to understand the demands they make; of being fed, being cleaned etc. So remember, even their skin speaks a language. Understand that and you will have a happy child!