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Helping Your Child with Eczema

By Dr. Vajaria

The exact cause of eczema is not fully understood.  Eczema is not an allergy itself, but allergies can trigger eczema.  Some environmental factors (such as excessive heat or cold, scented skin products, etc.) can also trigger eczema.

Eczema most commonly causes dry, reddened skin, although the appearance of eczema varies.  Intense itching is often the first symptom.  Children often try to relieve the itching by rubbing or scratching the affected areas, which can make eczema worse and can eventually lead to thickened, brownish areas on the skin.

While any region of the body may be affected by eczema, it typically occurs on the face, neck, and the insides of the elbows, knees, and ankles.  In infants, eczema typically occurs on the forehead, cheeks, forearms, legs, scalp, and neck.

Eczema symptoms tend to worsen and improve over time, with flare-ups occurring periodically.  Although there is no cure, many children either outgrow their eczema, or it at least gets better as they get older.

Helping your child

While there is no cure for eczema, you can take steps to manage your child’s symptoms and lessen the severity of outbreaks.  Try to follow these suggestions:

•Give your child a daily brief skin survey for any appearance of eczema.

•For Infants and Toddlers, bathe daily or every other day using a cleanser only 1-2 times a week when actual dirt is present.  Use petroleum type moisturizer (Aquaphor, Cetaphil, Cerave) ideally within 2-3 minutes of bathing.

•For School Aged and Adolescent children), bathe/shower daily.  Limit showers to 10-15 minutes.  Use cleanser when actual dirt is present at/in neck, axillary and groin areas.  Apply moisturizer or emollient creams 2-3 times daily, even if a bath/shower was not taken.

•Avoid using scented soaps, detergents, fabric softeners, bubble bath, etc.

•Avoid excessive scrubbing and toweling after bathing your child.  Instead, gently pat your child's skin   dry.

•Avoid dressing your child in harsh or irritating clothing, such as wool or coarsely woven materials.

•Apply cool compresses (such as a wet, cool washcloth) on the irritated areas of skin to ease itching.

•Keep your child's fingernails short to minimize any skin damage caused by scratching.

•Other adjuvant therapy – bleach baths:  ¼ - ½ cup of household bleach added to ¾ full standard tub and soak for 5-10 minutes, 2 times a week.

•Wet preps.

What You Need To Know

•Be ready for times when your child's eczema may get worse, including the winter, when your house may be dry, and summertime, when your child may be getting overheated outside.

•During these times, your doctor may prescribe medications, like a mild steroid ointment, to be used twice a day.  Make sure to apply moisturizers on top of your child's topical medications, as they can be harsh to the skin.  Continue using the medication until your child’s eczema is improved, then stop the medication, but continue with daily moisturizers.

•Keep in mind that skin infections sometimes accompany difficult to treat eczema flares, and your child may sometimes require an antibiotic. Schedule an appointment if your child’s eczema is looking very red or has oozing or crusting lesions.

Topics and Subtopics: Skin Health & Children's Health

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