Proper amount of bathing and moisturizing your baby may help prevent skin disease

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Parents may think they're doing their babies a favor by bathing them frequently. But now doctors think that too much bathing and not enough moisturizing may increase the chances of eczema, a common skin disease.

At four months, Sabrina Bellach loves bathtime. So does her mom, Melissa. But that doesn't mean it should be a daily routine.

"Our pediatrician definitely warned us when both our kids were born--fewer baths when they're younger and make sure to take care of moisturizing their skin," said Melissa Bellach.

Pediatricians recommend no more than two or three baths a week so baby's skin won't dry out. Yet one survey found babies are getting on average five baths a week. Bellach understands why some parents may be overbathing.

"You worry about germs especially in the winter, and you want to keep your baby clean," she said.

But some researchers say frequent bathing may be contributing to more kids having eczema. It causes dry, itchy, irritated skin that can lead to infections and even hospital stays. Up to 20 percent of kids have eczema compared to three percent decades ago.

A new study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology finds too little moisturizing may also increase the chances of eczema. Babies who didn't get any moisturizer were about twice as likely to develop eczema as those who were moisturized daily.

"Putting the moisturizer on right after you get out -- that seems to reduce the likelihood you'll develop eczema to begin with, so that's very exciting," said Dr. Jay Portnoy, an allergy specialist at Children's Mercy Hospital.

The doctor says it's best to use lotions or creams with no fragrance.

"Fragrances and things like that may smell nice, but they can be irritating to the skin," Dr. Portnoy said.

He also said the humidity in your home should be at least 20 percent to prevent itchy skin and keep baby happy.

Again, no more than two or three baths a week is best for baby. But it's different if your child already has eczema. Dr. Portnoy says the child should bathe daily, then immediately apply moisturizer.

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