Dry Skin

What is dry skin?

The skin has natural oils to keep it lubricated and soft. Sometimes, your child’s skin stops producing oils. This leads to dry, irritated, or itchy skin. If not treated properly, your child’s skin can crack and get infected.

Signs and symptoms of dry skin

Dry skin may have some of the following signs or symptoms:

  • dryness
  • scaling or flaking
  • irritation
  • sensitive to the touch
  • peeling
  • cracking

Causes of dry skin

There are many reasons why children develop dry skin, which include:

  • a dry environment
  • a child’s active lifestyle
  • medicines
  • hormone fluctuations
  • illness

Too much (or too little) bathing can lead to dry skin. Exposing your baby’s or child’s skin to too much soapy water rinses away the body’s natural lubricating oils. Rarely, a child is allergic or intolerant to moisturizers. Allowing your child to sleep, crawl, or walk around in wet diapers can also lead to irritated, dry skin.

Medical conditions like keratosis pilaris or eczema (atopic dermatitis) are signaled by patches of dry or bumpy skin.

What you can do to help your child with dry skin

  • Use warm water, rather than hot water, for showers or baths.
  • Limit bathing time to 15 minutes or less.
  • Consider bathing your baby every other day when possible, and towel washing her on the off-bath days.
  • Allow your baby to walk or crawl around without a diaper after bathing to air dry.
  • Avoid harsh, drying soaps such as deodorant or antibacterial soaps.
  • Try using moisturizing child-safe soaps or body washes instead of regular soap.
  • Drop a capful of baby oil in the water of your older child’s bath. (Caution: the bathtub will be very slippery)
  • Apply a child-safe or doctor-recommended moisturizer to your child’s skin after bathing. Often, simple petroleum jelly will suffice.
  • Place a cool-mist humidifier in your child’s room to add moisture to the air inside your home.
  • Dress your child in natural fibers like cotton.
  • Wash your child’s clothes in detergents without dyes or perfumes.
  • Apply cool compresses on itchy dry skin.
  • Some itchy skin responds well to non-prescription hydrocortisone cream that contains at least 1% hydrocortisone.

When to see a doctor

Make an appointment with your child’s doctor if:

  • your child’s skin does not improve within 2 weeks
  • the cracks in your child’s skin develop a yellowish discharge
  • you are growing concerned over the condition of your child’s skin

Key points

  • The skin has natural oils to keep it lubricated and soft.
  • Too much or too little bathing can lead to dry, irritated skin.
  • You can prevent dry skin by having shorter baths with warmer water.
  • Avoid harsh, drying soaps such as deodorant or antibacterial soaps.
  • Place a cool-mist humidifier in your child’s room to add moisture to the air inside your home.

Mark Feldman, MD, FRCPC

5/13/2010

A Pons-Guiraud, Dry skin in dermatology: a complex physiopathology, Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, Vol 21, No. 2, 2007, pgs 1-4

Hoffman, Laura, Kumar Subramanyan, Anthony W. Johnson  & Michael D. Tharp. Benefits of an emollient body wash for patients with chronic winter dry skin Dermatologic Therapy, Vol 21, No. 5, 2008, pgs: 416-421

Saijo, Shinobu and Hachiro Tagami. Dry Skin of Newborn Infants: Functional Analysis of the Stratum Corneum. Pediatric Dermatology. Vol. 8, No. 2, 1991, pgs: 155-159





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