Eczema in children
If eczema is severe, it can have a dramatic effect on your child’s quality of life — and seeing your child struggle with red, itchy skin due to eczema can be upsetting for you too.
Be reassured that there are things you can do to help prevent and treat eczema flare-ups and reduce symptoms so your child can feel more comfortable.
What is eczema?
Eczema is a common non-contagious skin condition that affects approximately 20% of school-aged children and 30% of infants. The condition causes the skin to become red, dry, itchy and inflamed, with the severity of symptoms varying from child to child.
There are different types of eczema with atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, dyshidrotic eczema and seborrheic dermatitis (“cradle cap”) being the most common in children.
Eczema often develops in children before they turn one, but can affect them at any stage in life. Although eczema is usually a long-term condition, it can be treated and will often improve or even clear up completely as a child gets older.
What causes eczema in children?
It’s not known exactly what causes eczema in children, but it’s thought that a number of factors may contribute to the development of the condition and cause flare-ups.
It’s common for children to develop eczema if there’s a family history of eczema, asthma or hay-fever (allergic rhinitis). Antibiotic exposure around the time of birth can also include the risk for eczema. Eczema flare-ups may be triggered by things that cause skin dryness such as certain bathing products, hard water and central heating. Allergies to animal dander, dust, pollen and other allergens can sometimes play a significant role in the worsening of eczema.
Signs and symptoms of eczema in children
Eczema can affect any area of the skin but the symptoms and areas affected can depend on the age of your child.
The most common symptoms of eczema to look out for in your child are:
- Dry, itchy, red and inflamed skin
- Scales, blisters and bumps on the skin that weep fluid and crust over
- Splitting and bleeding of the skin from dryness and/or scratching – this can leave the skin open to infection
- Intense itchiness at night – you may notice your child scratches their skin more when they’re asleep
Symptoms of eczema in infants
Children under a year old that are affected by eczema will usually have it appear on their face, cheeks, chin or scalp.
Eczema may also spread to other areas of your child’s body such as the insides of their knees and elbows and on their trunk. Eczema does not usually appear in the nappy area.
Symptoms of eczema in children
Over the age of one, children often experience eczema in the creases of their elbows and knees, or on their wrists, ankles, hands and neck. Eczema can also appear around their eyes and mouth but can affect any area of your child’s body.
As your child gets older, skin affected by eczema may appear thicker and darker with deep lines due to dryness and itching.
How is eczema diagnosed?
There’s no specific test used to diagnose eczema. An eczema diagnosis is made simply by examining your child’s skin, and gathering information about when their symptoms started, if and how they have changed, and how they are affecting your child’s day-to-day life.
Treating eczema in children
Although there’s no cure for eczema, there are things you can do to treat your child’s symptoms and reduce the severity of the condition over time.
Treatments that can help treat and manage eczema in children include:
- Moisturising your child’s skin at least twice a day with emollient creams or ointments to reduce dryness and itching
- Applying prescription steroid creams to reduce inflammation
- Bathing your child in lukewarm water every day and only using non-soap cleansers to wash them with
- Patting the skin dry (don’t rub) after washing and applying emollient cream or ointment to help keep the skin hydrated
- Putting mittens on your child’s hands at night to stop them from itching their skin while they sleep
At Children’s Allergy Doctors, we offer a range of treatments for eczema, including advice on bathing, avoiding irritants, how to select an emollient that will work for your child, how to manage and prevent eczema flares and infections, appropriate use of steroids cream and, where necessary, steroid sparing creams.
In cases of more severe eczema that does not respond to these treatments, our team will refer to Consultant Paediatric Dermatologists at The Portland Hospital.
Preventing eczema and allergies in children
Taking steps to prevent eczema flare-ups is an important part of treating the condition.
Avoiding or removing any known triggers such as certain foods or animals can help reduce your child’s eczema symptoms over time. Identifying and excluding these allergens may also help reduce the need for conventional treatments such as steroid creams.
Clothes made from polyester or wool can be harsh on the skin and aggravate eczema, so try to dress your child in soft 100% cotton clothes whenever possible.
It may also help to wash your child’s clothes and bedding using mild, fragrance-free laundry detergents and doing an extra rinse of the clothes to reduce the detergents further.
How Children’s Allergy Doctors can help
We now know that infants with eczema, particularly those with severe symptoms, have a 50% chance of developing a food allergy before their first birthday. Proactive management of eczema can not only help relieve symptoms but can also help reduce the risk of developing new allergies.
At Children’s Allergy Doctors, we screen for food allergies so that we can try to prevent these from developing. We also provide advice on how to prevent eczema from developing and how to best treat it if your child is affected by the condition.
Get in touch to book a consultation today.
What parents say:
“Dr Brough did an incredibly thorough examination of my baby’s skin to formulate a plan to combat her atopic eczema. She prescribed lotions, moisturisers and ointments that we hadn’t tried previously. We saw results overnight. I had forgotten how soft a baby’s skin should feel. It felt like a miracle!”