Eczema tips and tricks
Eczema or atopic dermatitis is an extremely common condition in children. It results in dry, inflamed and itchy skin that can be distressing for the child. It is an allergic condition that is often triggered by environmental allergens (such as dust, grasses, pollens) or certain foods.
In babies and infants, eczema typically presents on the face and trunk. As children get older the typical areas affected are in the bends of the elbows and back of the knees. Eczema is important to manage to prevent infection and long-term scarring of the skin.
The basic principle surrounding eczema is excessive dryness of the skin. This is due to an immune reaction disrupting the top layer of the skin causing an excess loss of moisture. In some children they have a genetic predisposition to damage of that superficial layer of the skin, making them more likely to have eczema. In some cases, allergy testing can be beneficial to determine what the possible triggers for your child’s eczema. This may help determine what foods or environmental allergens to avoid.
Due to the excessive loss of moisture, your child’s skin becomes dry. The primary goal in managing eczema is to keep moisture in the skin. In terms of moisturisers we would generally suggest something like a soft white paraffin which creates an oily barrier on the skin. In the bath, we would suggest bath oils which once again creates an oily barrier on the skin. It is important not to use soaps as they dissolve oils, or use water that is too warm for the same reason.
Should the simple measures not be effective, your doctor or paediatrician may prescribe steroid creams. These are used for the short-term reduction in the information of the skin. There are a range of steroids available and in general they are quite safe to use on most parts of the body. We do try to limit steroid use on the face as it may potentially thin the skin. There are certain creams available such as Elidel which can be safely used around the eyes and mouth to treat moderate to severe eczema. Your paediatrician will be able to advise as to the best option for your child.
More recently wet wraps have been shown to be effective for managing eczema. These can be used locally at night to keep moisture in the skin. You can find more information at this website http://www.rch.org.au/uploadedFiles/Main/Content/derm/Wet_dressings_A3.pdf
For more information on eczema, you can visit this website. www.eczema.org.au