Every day at the office, I receive questions from concerned parents about eczema, and what it can mean for their child. Sadly, this skin condition is extremely common nowadays. I see it in kids of all ages, from young infants to teenagers. Some children have their eczema well-controlled, while others have such a chronic condition, that they experience pain and discomfort regularly. Not only is it painful, but it’s painful to watch. Treating eczema is one of my passions as a pediatrician. I know how important it is to bring relief to my young patients, so I’m always trying to educate parents and kids about it.
First, let’s review what eczema is. Eczema is a chronic skin condition that causes rashes, dryness, redness and itching. Atopic dermatitis is the most common form of eczema. The term “atopic” refers to skin conditions where a child is very sensitive to allergens found in the environment, such as mold, pollen, pet dander, dust mites, and even certain types of food.
Eczema occurs in one out of 10 children. It is common in patients with a family history of environmental allergies and asthma.
Since eczema is a chronic condition, it may be present at all times. Eczema can also go through periods of flare-ups, alternated with periods of minimal or no symptoms at all.
Each child is different, so as you can imagine, eczema presents differently de-pending on the child. It may show up on different parts of the body and across a range of ages.
For example, in babies between two and six months of age, it is common to initially see a bumpy rash, as well as red, itchy, dry patches on the face and scalp. Later on, the rash may present as circular slightly raised, scaly patches in the bends of elbows, behind the knees and/or on the back of the ankles and wrists.
As children get older, the rash becomes scalier, drier and itchier. It is also very common to see periodic flare-ups.
Now that we know what eczema is all about and how it can present in little ones, let’s talk about the most helpful ways to prevent these undesirable flare-ups.
First, the right cleanser for bath or shower time is important. In babies, newborn skin is delicate, and for this reason, you must maintain its moisture, prevent any dryness and avoid irritants. A great way to achieve this is to use a very gentle cleanser that protects and nourishes the skin. A cleanser without harsh and toxic chemicals is a must, so one made with organic, plant-based ingredients is ideal. Also, a pH-balanced cleanser maintains the skin’s moisture barrier, that is, it will prevent the skin from becoming too dry. Our Oh-So-Sudsy Cleanser is ideal for newborns and little ones’ delicate skin! It is a pH-balanced, vegan cleans-ing stick made with organic, plant-based ingredients that will protect and nourish your babies’ precious skin.
Second, moisturize, moisturize, moisturize! This is so important with newborns and little ones. One of my favorite tips for parents is to gently pat-dry their baby’s skin with a towel after bath time and immediately apply a balm or ointment (such as our Lovingly Organic Balm) to damp skin to lock in moisture. I remind them that their baby’s skin might feel greasy at first but it will absorb the extra moisture. This results in soft, well-moisturized skin, and best of all… skin that is not dry or itchy!
Third, be sure to avoid irritants that may come in contact with the skin. Harsh chemicals, synthetic fragrance, synthetic fabrics, laundry detergents with dyes and/or perfumes, and fabric softener are a few examples.
Fourth, food allergies and environmental allergies (caused by pollen, dust mites, animal dander, etc.) can trigger eczema flare-ups. It is important to ask your pediatrician about allergy testing, and of course, to avoid any triggers if the testing comes back positive.
Unfortunately, there are cases where additional treatment is needed. Treating eczema effectively depends on the severity of the skin condition.
In most cases, topical steroids are commonly used. They come in the form of creams and ointments and can vary in strength. Non-steroidal medications, such as antihistamines, are often recommended to treat itching. Topical or oral antibiotics are used when there is a secondary skin infection, usually caused by excessive scratching of the affected areas.
Be sure to always consult your child’s pediatrician for a complete evaluation and a specific treatment plan for eczema.
As a pediatrician and a mom, I understand how important it is to provide the best care for your kids. When it comes to dealing with chronic conditions such as eczema, it can feel scary and frustrating. I hope after reading this article you feel empowered with the knowledge and tools necessary to navigate your little ones’ skin condition. My take-home message to you is: do not despair when your child is struggling with eczema. With the right approach and your loving care, eczema becomes a manageable condition and your precious one’s skin will improve.