Eczema refers to a group of dermatological conditions that turn the skin red, itchy, and inflamed. There are several types of eczema that we discussed in greater detail in our previous articles. However, atopic dermatitis (AD) is by far the most common type in children. Contact dermatitis, dyshidrotic eczema, and seborrheic dermatitis are also prevalent in children. Generally speaking, AD appears during the first 6 months to 5 years of a child’s life.
In this article, we will discuss all there is to know about eczema in kids, including the common signs, causes, and treatments of this condition.
The signs and symptoms of eczema in children
The primary signs and symptoms of eczema in children are:
• Dry, itchy skin. People often refer to it as the itch that rashes
• Redness, bumps, and scales
• Blisters that leak fluids
• Episodic nature (it comes in flareups then heals)
• Signs more noticeable at night
Besides these signs, eczema presents differently depending on the age of the child. For instance, infants younger than 1-year-old develop rashes on their scalp, cheeks, and foreheads. The rash could also spread to the elbows, trunk, and knees.
On the other hand, older kids and teens get the rash behind their knees, the bends of the elbows, the neck, and inner wrists and ankles. The skin is often scalier and drier during the first phase. When it becomes thick, dark, and scarred, we refer to this as lichenification.
What causes eczema?
So far, doctors still don’t know the exact causes of eczema. It seems to be an inflammatory disease characterized by immune dysfunction. Some experts believe that skin allergies may be the trigger of some forms of eczema. Note that viral infections and food allergies can also trigger eczema.
Who gets eczema?
A large number of children and kids with eczema have a family history of this disease. In other words, parents could transmit the disease to their children through genes. However, the exact genes responsible for this condition are still unidentified. Besides eczema, children may present with allergies, such as hay fever and asthma, which are collectively referred to as atopic conditions. Atopic conditions are common among people with an unusually hyperactive immune system that is sensitive to harmless allergens in the environment.
Note that eczema is not contagious by any means.
The diagnosis of eczema
Similar to other dermatological conditions, there is no definitive way to diagnose eczema. Your doctor will inspect the rash and ask you about the medical history of your child, your family history, and whether you or your relative have any atopic conditions. Once the doctor rules out other conditions that cause skin inflammation, he/she might confirm the diagnosis or refer your child to a dermatologist or allergist.
One interesting way to diagnose eczema is by excluding certain foods from your child’s diet (e.g., eggs, milk, soy, nuts). After a while, you will report whether their symptoms improved or not. It is helpful to keep a notebook.
The treatment of eczema in children
As you may already know, there is no definitive cure for eczema. However, there are several treatments that improve symptoms. Based on the severity of your symptoms, your child’s age, and the location of your rash, your doctor will decide the appropriate treatment for your kid. Some treatments are applied topically while others are oral drugs.
Common treatments for eczema in children:
Topical moisturizers – moisturizers applied 2–3 times a day are very helpful in soothing the skin and preventing flareups. The ideal time to apply moisturizers is after a bath or a shower.
Topical corticosteroids – drugs like cortisone or steroid creams ease inflammation. It is important to differentiate corticosteroids from other types of steroids used by athletes. You should note apply these medications without the approval of your doctor due to their relatively heavy side effect profile.
Topical anti-inflammatory medicines – this category includes all the drugs that optimize the function of your child’s immune system and lower the risk of flareups.
Oral medicine – when topical treatments fail to deliver any results, oral medications become necessary. These include antihistamines to improve itchiness and help your child sleep at night, antibiotics if your child develops an infection, and steroid pills to suppress the immune system.
Other treatment modalities for eczema in children:
Phototherapy – light therapy that uses ultraviolet beams to ease up inflammation.
Wet wraps – damp cloths placed on inflamed areas of skin.
Bleach baths – bathing in a diluted bleach solution. Ask your doctor for guidance before setting up this bath.
Here is what you should try to help your child:
• Preventing eczema flareups is a key point in the management of this condition. Make sure that your child’s baths and showers are warm and not hot. Use unscented soaps to path the skin before putting creams.
• Kids should wear soft clothes made from cotton. Avoid wool or polyester as they may be harsh for the skin.
• Keep your child’s fingernails short to prevent the damage that arises from scratching.
Eczema in children is very common and requires the attention of parents and the care of doctors. We hope that this article managed to highlight the impact that eczema has on kids and the proper ways to manage this condition.
If you want to read more about eczema you can read this: https://itsitchy.com/10-facts-about-atopic-dermatitis/
Written by Zac Hyde M.D.