Eczema in childhood
It's an itchy nuisance which causes the skin to become inflamed and sore. The term eczema or dermatitis is used to describe certain kinds of inflamed skin conditions including allergic contact dermatitis and nummular dermatitis. Eczema can be red, blistering, oozing, scaly, brownish, or thickened. A special type is called atopic dermatitis or atopic eczema, which is the most common form of eczema in childhood.
In many cases, eczema appears before age five, and will disappear before the teenage years.
With eczema, the skin is more sensitive than a normal person's skin. It can be caused by things like heat, sunlight, saliva, fragrances and soaps.
Dermatologist Dr Neil Persadsingh says 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. 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.
Eczema may go away, but it will come back time and time again. You will know your child has eczema when he has a certain skin rash in a typical pattern -- 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, Dr Persadsingh said. 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, Dr Persadsingh said. 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.