Recent research claims frequent bathing can lead to increased incidences of asthma in babies and young children.

From my own experience, I believe we are also seeing more skin problems such as eczema in babies and children.

The need to survive requires an infant's body to be naturally much more alert and active so it is receptive, sensitive and reactive to external stimuli. But this can manifest as an allergic response, of which asthma and eczema are typical examples.

The immune system of a baby is developing fast. It is recognised that babies exposed to tiny doses of infections develop antibodies and therefore better resistance to infections. This is the principle on which vaccinations work.

As the skin is the first organ of contact and protection, it is full of millions of receptors which detect all kinds of foreign materials, texture and temperature change.

Messages are fed to the brain and appropriate physical, chemical and nervous responses are then produced which recognise and protect the body from the same stimulus again.

Ayurveda states one of the causes of disease as "asatmendriya artha samyoga" - too much, too little or abnormal contact of the senses with objects. Washing a baby's body frequently may dampen the sensory receptors on the skin.

In addition, there are many chemicals contained in modern soaps, powders, cleansing agents, creams and lotions. The preservatives or the chemical ingredients in these might cause the asthma.

Even inhalation of the powder or ingestion of the bath water could cause allergy in babies. Dust in the air from various sources and pollution could also contribute toward an allergic asthma or eczema.

Cleaning baby's bottom and nappy area is, of course, essential for proper hygiene and to prevent soreness of baby's skin. But gentle cleaning of the rest of the body once a day with plain water is sufficient.

Ayurveda recommends gentle application of almond oil after bathing baby. This helps keep the skin supple and clean but also maintains its natural state of moisture.

In Indian tradition, a paste made from a mixture of chickpea flour in milk is applied on the baby's body and then gently washed away with clean, pure water.

Chick pea flour has anti-allergic and cleansing properties without destroying the vitality of the skin. For babies who suffer dry skin or rashes, chick pea flour can be mixed with a small amount of turmeric powder, which also has anti-allergic properties, in buttermilk from live yoghurt and applied to skin before bathing.

Milk is also an excellent soothing and healing agent because of its calcium, protein and lactose content.

Dr Milind Jani works as a conventional and holistic GP and Dr Asmita Jani as Ayurvedic Consultant from 30 The Drive, Hove.

Callo them on 01273 778123, or email: