Child (Atopic) Eczema

Child eczema also known as atopic eczema or infantile eczema is a skin condition characterized by having dry skin with a red, sore and usually very itchy rash. It is very common in children below 5 years often appearing on their cheeks and neck. Though it may also appear on the joints, that is the knees, elbow, and wrist among other parts of the body. This rash is usually unbearably itchy, and most parents are advised to cut their child’s nails to prevent them from tearing the skin which could cause the rash to spread or become infected.

Eczema is caused by various factors referred to as triggers. To avoid recurrence of the condition, it is always advised to identify your child’s trigger(s) early in advance and avoid it. Triggers may include:
1. Sudden or extreme changes in weather conditions.
2. Pollen from trees, grass or weeds
3. Wool or synthetic fibers
4. Bathing soap, clothes detergent, fabric softener or even perfumes
5. House dust mites
6. Animal saliva or dander (dandruff from animal fur/hair. It is often small and hard to see.)
7. Family history of eczema, asthma or hay fever
8. Teething
9. Remnants of milk which settle on a baby’s cheek during breastfeeding.

It is also believed that various foods can trigger eczema such as milk, soya, eggs, peanuts and wheat. This is especially the case for children with severe cases of eczema who are often also found to have certain food allergies.

Although eczema cannot be completely cured, it can easily be controlled by:
1. Identifying your child’s trigger and avoiding it.
2. Bathing your child with mild soaps or soap cleansers. Some women have sworn by using bar soap as a preferred bathing soap for their baby stating that their child’s eczema subsided after they began using it.
3. Gently patting your child’s skin dry after every bath. Rubbing the skin with a towel could scratch the skin and spread the rash if present.
4. Ensuring that you moisturize your child’s skin within 3 minutes after every bath. It is important to speak to your child’s dermatologist or pediatrician to identify which moisturizer will work best for your child as some moisturizers may actually further irritate your child’s skin.
5. Dressing your child in lose fitting clothes made out of cotton or any soft fabric to prevent scratching and sweating.
6. Removing any floor carpeting or keeping it clean and well dusted.
7. Ensuring that your pets are clean and using dander treatment
8. Allowing your child’s skin some time to breathe, though this should be done taking into account the temperature of the room to prevent your child from falling sick.

It is important to note that child eczema often gets better with time and may not need any prescription medication especially if the trigger has been identified and avoided. You may be initially advised to observe the rash for 3 – 5 days to see if it will go away on its own. However, you should seek medical attention should your child’s rash become worse or develop any of the below symptoms as it may be a sign of an infection:

1. The rash begins to discharge a clear/yellow fluid
2. The rash begins to discharge a red/yellow pus
3. Blisters begin to form
4. Your child develops a fever or the areas with the rash become very warm
5. Your child develops flu-like symptoms
6. Your child’s glands begin to swell, mainly in the armpit, neck or groin region.

Some parents may confuse a heat rash for atopic eczema especially first time parents. It’s always important to consult your pediatrician or child dermatologist when in doubt.

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