THE most common form of eczema in childhood is atopic dermatitis. In this condition the skin becomes inflamed and sore. It starts in early childhood.
Eczema causes the skin to become itchy and inflamed. In many cases there is a rash. In most cases eczema will arise in kids before the age of five years but in most kids the eczema will disappear before their teenage years.
There are some special cells in the skin that will respond to anything that irritates them. This occurs because the cells want to protect the skin. In eczema, these cells overreact if anything triggers them, and the skin becomes sore and itchy. The truth though is that no one knows why some kids get eczema.
Eczema is not contagious but kids who have eczema often have relatives with the condition, or who may have hay fever or asthma. Some of the kids who get eczema will later develop hay fever and asthma. Although eczema is not an allergy, allergies may act as a trigger for the eczema. Some of the other triggers are soaps, detergents and perfumes. The condition may also occur if the weather is very cold or very hot, if there is very dry air with little moisture, with clothes that scratch, or because of dust mites.
You will know your child has eczema when there is a certain skin rash in a typical pattern. It may go away, but it will come back time and time again. The rash is very itchy. In babies the rash may start on the face, and later it may go all over the child's body. Still later, it will settle in the front of the elbows and the back of the knees.
Most kids will need moisturising, the foundation for treating eczema. Some kids will need a steroid cream and others will need antibiotics. For some, an antihistamine will stop the itch, and some may need to stop using soaps and use a soap substitute.
None of the treatments will make the eczema go away, but with treatment the skin will become more supple and in time will heal itself.
There are other things you can do to help. First, do not let the kids scratch. Keep the fingernails cut short. Stay away from scented, coloured soaps and opt for those with moisturisers in them.
After bathing, pat the skin dry and immediately apply the medicines and the moisturiser. Have them drink a lot of water and always make them wear loose cotton clothes.
The outlook for the kids with eczema is very good.
Dr Persadsingh is a skin specialist and author of Acne in Black Women, The Hair in Black Women and Eczema in Kids of Colour.