How to Protect Your Baby's Skin this Winter

Infant Skin Care in WinterBy Maureen Connolly

Winter can do a number on a baby's sensitive skin. Things like dry indoor air and chilly outdoor temperatures can lead to chapping, redness, and irritation. Dr. Terri A. Kahn, section head of pediatric dermatology at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, recommends the following for keeping your baby's skin healthy:

Practice Smart Bathing

Daily bathing is fine as long as you follow a few rules. For starters, use tepid water and a lipid-free liquid cleanser, such as Dove or fragrance-free Cetaphil. (Soaps containing lipids are made with detergents, which remove a barrier on the skin that helps to hold in water.) Since dry, indoor air can trigger outbreaks of eczema, a condition marked by areas of red, scaly, itchy skin on the face, elbows, knees, and neck, Dr. Kahn says you'll want to use an antibacterial soap to help avoid secondary skin infections. Two good antibacterial cleansers are Cetaphil and Oilatum AD.

To avoid zapping moisture from your baby's skin, don't keep him in the bath for more than 10 minutes. And once he's out, apply a moisturizer within three minutes to help lock in water. (Be careful to avoid the eye areas.) Good choices include Cetaphil and Vanicream for sensitive skin, Lubriderm, Aveeno lotion, and even Vaseline or Crisco shortening. "These last two products are also great for the diaper area since they provide a protective film that helps prevent irritation," says Dr. Kahn. "Just be sure to toss tubs every three months since they can build up with bacteria."

Use TLC for Runny Noses

If a cold has left your little guy's nose constantly running, avoid chapping and irritation by applying a small amount of Vaseline or Aquaphor to the area just below the nose a few times per day. (These two products also work well at removing dried nasal mucus -- a.k.a. "crusty boogies" -- that accumulate below the nose overnight or during a nap.) When wiping the nose, use a tissue made with moisturizing lotion, such as Kleenex. Since infants with eczema may carry a staph bacteria in their nose, if you notice scabbing around the nostrils and mouth following a runny nose, call your pediatrician who can prescribe a topical antibiotic to help clear the infection.

Don't Overheat Your Infant

Babies under 6 months can't regulate their body temperatures as well as adults, which is why you'll want to dress them in one layer more than what you're comfortable in. However, an infant that is overswaddled or who has too many layers will become overheated, which can irritate the skin, and lead to prickly heat. Prickly heat causes little red, itchy, pus bumps on the upper trunk and body folds. These often clear up in a few days. In the meantime, give your baby some relief by applying a cool wash cloth to the affected area and allowing skin to get some air.

Take Care with Clothing

If your infant is prone to eczema, you'll definitely want to take the following precautions (even eczema-free infants will benefit from these tips): Try to choose dye-free clothing and avoid synthetic fabrics. White or pastel-colored, cotton clothing are best for baby. Wash clothes with a detergent-free cleanser such as Dreft. Don't use dryer sheets, which leave an irritating film on clothing. If you want to use fabric softener, add it to the rinse cycle and double rinse.

Report Problems to Your Pediatrician

If you notice any raw, weeping, broken down areas of skin, these are signs of infection. Call your pediatrician who can prescribe a topical or oral treatment.

Maureen Connolly is the managing editor of Your Baby Today. She's mom to Jack Henry.

The content on these pages is provided as general information only and should not be substituted for the advice of your physician
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