Our Top Tips For Managing Childhood Eczema
The word eczema come from the Greek word “to boil.” It’s no surprise then, that eczema causes red, itchy and cracked skin to develop.
There is no single thing that causes eczema. However, recent research has shown that in up to half of cases eczema may be caused by a defect in the “filaggrin” gene. This gene is responsible for the formation of the barrier of the skin.
This dysfunction in the skin barrier causes the skin to lose water making it drier and itchy. It also leaves the skin vulnerable to allergens and infections.
Eczema affects 1 in 10 adults but up to 1 in 5 children. It often develops before a child’s first birthday. The itching and inflammation of the skin can be unpleasant for young children so here are our top tips for getting control:
- Avoid soaps and bubble baths when washing your child. Ideally use a bath/shower moisturiser.
- Try to avoid wool, which can irritate the inflamed skin, and instead wear cotton clothing next to the skin.
- Extremes of temperature can cause irritation so avoid either too hot or too cold temperatures.
- Approximately 1 in 2 children have a food allergy that makes Eczema worse. The app Bowelle can be helpful in keeping a food and symptom diary for a couple of months. Eczema is most commonly triggered by eggs, cow’s milk, fish, wheat, soya and nuts. Skin prick testing when very young can miss this.
- Regular use of emollients is the most important part of the day-to-day treatment for atopic eczema.
- Apply emollients liberally to all areas of skin in the direction of hair growth every day even when the skin looks good.
- Cetraben is a good choice for this but some children respond better to different creams.
- After a bath or shower it is best to dry by patting with a towel rather than by rubbing. Then apply an emollient cream or ointment to any dry looking areas of skin. This is when the skin is most receptive to moisturising
- Topical steroids work by reducing the inflammation of the skin.
- Apply a thin layer of the steroid once daily. One finger tip of cream can cover and area twice the size of your palm when the skin is inflamed.
- Use daily steroid creams for 7-10 days until the eczema is under control and then use every weekend to prevent further flare ups.
- Apply the emollient 10-15 minutes before applying the steroid.
If you have any concerns about your child’s eczema or need some more help, come in to see one of our doctors.
Dr Hugh Coyne