Eczema affects more than 20 percent of kids. The most common form of eczema, atopic dermatitis, often develops in infants. And while it can go away on its own, it can also stick around for a child’s entire life. It’s effects go far beyond skin irritations, including sleep and weight issues, hay fever, allergies and asthma.
But there may be a solution that could prevent babies from ever developing atopic dermatits in the first place. And new research suggests the most affordable method is likely already in your medicine cabinet — good old Vaseline.
The trick is to moisturize your baby, everywhere but the scalp, at least five times a week for the first six months of life. In 2014 researchers from Oregon Health & Science University found parents who did this cut their newborns’ risk of atopic dermatitis in half.
That’s freaking awesome. Taking five minutes out of your day to lotion up your baby is worth it if cuts their risk of developing eczema in half.
But what’s even better is how affordable the treatment can be. If you’ve ever had to purchase an eczema cream, then you know they’re priced like tubes of liquid gold. In fact, families caring for a child with this kind of eczema spend as much as 35% of their discretionary income on care each month. So Dr. Steve Xu, a resident physician in the department of dermatology at Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine and his team looked at the costs of the moisturizes used in the study to determine which one was the most affordable for parents but still worked to prevent eczema. The most cost efficient option was petroleum jelly, aka Vaseline, coming in at $7.30 for a six-month’s supply. That’s a really affordable solution to a prevent what could otherwise be a lifelong health issue.“We could really save a lot of newborns ― and save families ― a lot of suffering,” Dr. Xu, told The Huffington Post.
The other moisturizers ranged in price, with the most expensive one used in the study being Vaniply ointment, coming in at $173.39 for a six-month supply.
So while you can use a more expensive moisturizer on your baby than that tub of Vaseline that’s good for everything from de-scaling your feet to keeping your lips from flaking, you don’t have to. Petroleum jelly is already one of the moisturizers recommended for the treatment of eczema by the National Eczema Association, though not as a preventative treatment. The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends petroleum jelly as one of the top choice moisturizers for treating (not necessarily preventing) eczema, including atopic dermatitis, because it’s among the most moisturizing.
“Plus, it’s safe, “Xu said. “Petroleum jelly is fragrance-free and doesn’t have preservatives or additives that could potentially cause irritation or other allergies,” he explained. Still, if you don’t want to put it on your baby because you’re saving it for taking off your eye makeup, there are other affordable options. Sunflower seed oil came in as the second cheapest moisturizer in the study, costing $18.25 for a six months supply.
Xu notes that you should touch base with your pediatrician before slathering your baby up. All of the infants in the study were babies who were considered high-risk for developing this form of eczema. They each had a parent or sibling who had been diagnosed with hay fever, allergies or eczema.
Long term studies still need to be done to see if these babies continue to show no signs of eczema, or if using the moisturizer has an impact on the conditions that usually accompany eczema, like allergies and hay fever. Still, it’s encouraging news with no real harm done for at-risk babies who’s parents try the treatment. “Gentle, bland moisturizers have very little to no risk of harm to newborns,” Xu said.