Thanks for joining me today. I am your host, Dr. Paul Smolen, a board certified pediatrician with 35 years of practice under my belt and a whole lot to say. From diapers to the diploma, if it involves kids, we discuss it here. Ever wonder why a baby’s skin feels better than the skin of older children and adults. Well, the reason is really rather simple. Baby skin is thinner and more supple than that of an older person. Baby versus adult skin. To get a sense of the difference thickness makes to skin, take a moment and feel the skin on your own palm, and then compare that with the skin on the back of your hand. Most of the difference that your feel, is due to the difference in the skin thickness. More specifically, we are talking about the thickness of the surface layer that is also known as the epidermis. Do you remember the names of the two layers to your skin? The deeper layer, where the nerves, blood vessels, sweat and oil glands are located is called the dermis. The dermis in turn is covered by multi-layers of cells called the epidermis; similar to the way shingles on the roof protect your house. The thing is, babies don’t have nearly as many shingles in their epidermis as do older people. Their skin therefore tears easier, is more porous, loses water more easily, cracks easier, and tends to dry out faster. Consequently, if a baby’s skin becomes damaged more easily, things that they touch the surface can penetrate right into their dermis provoking bad things to happen. More on that a few minutes and many other exciting things you need to know about your baby’s skin so don’t you dare miss this episode of Portable Practical Pediatrics.
What things can damage a baby’s skin?
What things can damage a baby’s skin? The short answer to this question is the same things that can damage anyone’s skin: excessive heat, or cold (we call those burns), irritants that touch the baby’s skin (most commonly from contact with poop or pee), solar radiation (we call that sunburn), bacteria and viruses that are known to infect skin, excessive friction (we call that road rash in my business), allergic irritants (like poison ivy), and venom reactions like those from insect bites, are the ones that come to my mind but I’m sure there are others. Now the big take home point to remember is that baby skin, with its thinner more porous nature, is much more prone to be damaged by any of these irritants than that of older folks. Therefore, keeping a baby’s skin integrity in good shape is really important. Keeping that roof on your baby’s skin from leaking is really important, as you will soon see.
What Does My Experience Tell Me are Best Skin Care practices for babies?
What does my experience tell me are best skin care practices for babies? What are the things I tell my patients that are likely to keep their children’s skin in good shape? Articles making bathing recommendations for babies Article 1, Article 2, Article 3
1 Infants should bath sparingly. Infant bathing recommendations
2 Either no soap (water only) or a baby wash designed for babies- neutral or lower pH (5-7), no fragrance, gentle on the eyes, Study comparing water to gentle soap
3 Only use very soft clothes to ever wipe a baby.
4 Daily moisturizing of babies seems to help keep their skin smooth and less likely to have the surface barrier damaged. Preventing eczema
5 Bathing in warm or hot water damages a baby’s skin and is a definite No No. Children and newborn skin care prevention
6 Baby wipes are convenient but in my experience, promote diaper rash and expose babies to chemicals that aren’t necessary. Water and a soft cloth work just fine.
Could Damaged baby skin be the basis of peanut allergy?
We have known for a long time that children who have severe eczema, that itchy cracked skin that afflicts some children, have a high risk of being allergic to peanuts but researchers have not been able to explain this association, until recently. Most of the peanut allergic children have an allergic reaction the first time they try eating peanut protein! How can this be, they have never had a taste of any peanut food. Well, some researchers from England think they have figured out how this happens by studying the dust in children’s homes. They found far more peanut protein in the dust of the homes of children who had peanut allergy than in those who did not. (British dust study) They also discovered that the more severe a child’s eczema was, the more likely they were to go on and develop peanut allergy. It appears that the peanut protein is getting into through the infant’s skin and making them allergic that way! Finally, an explanation of how children become peanut allergic that also explains why children with eczema are at such high risk. That moves skin care to the front of the class of skills parents need to master, doesn’t it! It looks like avoiding a child’s skin barrier from becoming damaged can be life saving since allergic reactions to peanut products are some of the most common food reaction that can lead to death. (Food Reactions Leading to Death).
I think you have to admit, that this was a pretty important edition of Portable Practical Pediatrics. That word “Practical” isn’t in my title for nothing. I want all parents of infants to commit those best skin practices to memory and live them with your infants. It might not only save your children from a life of itchy miserable skin during their childhoods, but also help them avoid a lifetime of fear of severe peanut reactions. One more time, a quick summary:
Infants should bath sparingly. Infant bathing recommendations
Either no soap (water only) or a baby wash designed for babies- neutral or lower pH (5-7), no fragrance, gentle on the eyes, Study comparing water to gentle soap
Only use very soft clothes to ever wipe a baby.
Daily moisturizing of babies seems to help keep their skin smooth and less likely to have the surface barrier damaged. Preventing eczema
Bathing in warm or hot water damages a baby’s skin and is a definite No No. Children and newborn skin care prevention
Baby wipes are convenient but in my experience, promote diaper rash and expose babies to chemicals that aren’t necessary. Water and a soft cloth work just fine.
I want to thank you for listening today. I hope I was able to bring you some new understanding of baby skin and at the same time give you some practical advise to help your parenting. If you enjoy learning about pediatrics and child health with Pedcast’s, please take a moment to write a review on iTunes or the DocSmo.com Facebook page. And feel free to like and share any of my pedcasts that you find useful. This is your host, Dr. Paul Smolen, broadcasting from studio 1E, hoping you develop the knack, of preventing your baby from developing skin cracks. Until next time.
Many thanks to Dr. Monica Miller for editing this pedcast.