Does your child have dry itchy skin that looks red, flaky or has cracks or tiny blisters? If so, she may have Eczema (a general term for dermatitis). Eczema is: “A noncontiguous inflammation of the skin, characterized chiefly by redness, itching, and the outbreak of lesions that may discharge serious matter and become encrusted and scaly.
*AD or atopic dermatitis is the most severe form and the most chronic kind of Eczema. Other types of Eczema are: seborrhea dermatitis, nummular eczema, irritant contact dermatitis, dishydrotic eczema and allergic contact dermatitis. Eczema usually begins in childhood. A child may out grow Eczema or continue to have it into adulthood. Eczema can occur in several places throughout the body. The most common sites are on the face- especially in children, on the inside of the elbows and on the back of the knees.
There is no known cure for Eczema, but it can be kept under control. First take your child to a dermatologist to have the type of Eczema properly diagnosed. The dermatologist will then help you learn how to treat it. Treatment may involve prescribed anti-inflammatory medication – such as a cortisone cream. It will also very likely involve keeping the skin moisturized- especially after a bath or shower- with an ointment based moisturizer (petroleum jelly) or cream based moisturizer (Eucerin).
*Lotions may dry up the skin because of ingredients such as alcohol.
If prescribed medication makes you uncomfortable for any reason, ask your doctor if there are any traditional remedies that can be used – such as oatmeal. If the doctor does prescribe medication, it is important to use the medication as prescribed. Dealing with Eczema may mean making some small lifestyle modifications for you and your child – not just to keep the skin well moisturized, but possibly to also help your child stay away from any irritants or allergens that may be causing “flare-ups (sudden outbreaks).
Yes, irritants and allergens in the environment can cause “flare-ups”. A few examples of these irritants and allergens are: soaps, shaving products, lotions, heat, perfumes, dyes, pet dander, peanuts, bananas, low humidity and even sweat. Emotional stress can also be a cause of a “flare-up”. In addition, some people with Eczema have been known to later develop asthma or hay fever, if not at the same time. It is not exactly understood why someone has Eczema, but it is possible that it is inherited. To help cope with this skin disease there are Eczema support groups that teach people how to deal with Eczema, such as NEASE.
Note* It is important to understand that if you have eczema you should try your best to avoid scratching. Scratching damages the already sensitive skin and can make the problem worse. Have your child wear gloves and trim her fingernails to help her avoid scratching and not further irritate the skin. If the itching becomes too much to handle tell the doctor. He may prescribe an antihistamine, which should help reduce the itching.