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Childhood Eczema
Parents Features

 
Childhood Eczema
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It is always distressing for parents when their little one has an obvious skin complaint. However, you are not alone! Childhood eczema is an increasing problem affecting 1 in 8 children in the UK.

The good news is that most children have mild forms of eczema which can be treated and often clears as they grow older. In fact 60-70% of children affected with eczema when small, are clear of skin inflammation by their mid teens.

Our Specialist Children’s Nurse provides you with a step-by –step guide including all the key facts you need to know about childhood eczema.

WHAT IS ECZEMA?
Eczema is not a contagious condition it causes your child’s skin to become red, dry and itchy. This can start by your little one itching a sore part of their skin until it becomes raw and inflamed. Persistent scratching of the inflamed area means it can then become infected and potentially spread.

Two of the main types of eczema are:
Atopic Eczema: This is linked with hay fever or asthma and causes an overall dryness of the skin.
Allergic Contact Dermatitis: When the body has a reaction against a particular substance such as washing up liquid, soap, washing powder or rough materials.

These are the most common diagnosis of eczema. Approximately 30% of children present with eczema before the age of 4 years. So you are not alone! Eczema is a long-term condition but is often controllable.

HOW TO RECOGNIZE ECZEMA?
If your family has a history of allergies or asthma they can be more susceptible to eczema. Most of the time it’s easily recognisable and can begin in the cracks of the body like behind the leg, on the elbow or behind the ears. In babies it can begin in the groin area or on the cheeks.

When eczema becomes infected it can cause your child’s skin to crack, bleed and in some cases form a yellow crust or present itself in the form of small red bumps on the surface of the skin.

WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF ECZEMA?
The exact cause of this condition is not known but there are many factors affecting your child’s eczema such as:
Environment: Winter weather can irritate eczema, causing it to become dry and itchier. Pollen can have an affect and pets in the home can make it even itchier, as the animal fur increases the chance of an allergic reaction on the skins surface. Dust in the home can have the same affect as can tobacco smoke, synthetic or woolen fabrics, biological detergents and fabric conditioners.
Diet: If your child has eczema they may also have food allergies cutting out dairy products can have a positive affect on your child’s condition. Certain foods can cause the eczema to get worse. If you think this may be the case, a good idea is to keep a food diary for your child. You may then spot trigger foods that cause the eczema to worsen.

HOW TO TREAT ECZEMA
Allergen avoidance:
Cotton clothing next to your child’s skin.
Washing clothes in a hypoallergenic detergent with no fabric conditioner. Dust free environment at home as much as possible.
Ideally a furry pet-free
Smoke free environment.

If your child’s eczema has been identified and linked with a known dietary allergen, then restrict this substance otherwise no dietary restrictions should be necessary.

The key to treating eczema successfully is GOOD MAINTAINANCE! This will keep flare ups to a minimum.

If treatment is needed:
There are a number of different treatments many of which must be prescribed by your GP:

Emollients/Moisturizers: These are for preventative therapy and can be used in the bath they reduce water loss from the skin providing a seal. Emollients come in the form of ointments creams or lotions and are really good when put in your child’s bath.
Topical Steroids: These are particularly for infected eczema or flare ups.
Oral Steroids: For if the eczema has become severe and therefore the child may be seeing a dermatologist.
A daily bath is recommended and effective in keeping your child’s skin clean and keeping infection to at bay. The key is to keep on top of your child’s creams when ever possible so they are well moisturized. Cotton clothing can be affective as it is non irritant. If the hands are sore, cotton gloves can be worn to stop your child itching in the night.
There are so many treatments for eczema in the forms described above you will get to know your child’s condition, what does and does not work for them and their skin.
In severe cases of childhood eczema your GP may prescribe Antihistamine medicines for the night time. This may help reduce the itchiness and help your child to get better nights sleep.

HOW TO GET THE HELP YOU NEED
If you notice that your little one may be developing eczema, do make an appointment with your GP, as they will need to examine your child. Talk to your Health Visitor in your local child development clinic, they will have lots of tips to assist you. Chatting with other parents who are succeeding in managing the condition may be helpful.

Ask a Health Visitor now on-line

Specialist Children’s Nurse

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