In Case of Eczema

little boy scratching his arm

If your child has eczema, he or she is not alone. About 15 to 20 percent of American kids will develop the condition before their fifth birthday.

What is eczema?

Eczema is a skin condition that commonly begins in the first year of a baby’s life. In infants, these patches often appear on the cheeks, forehead, scalp, arms and legs. In older children, it’s often limited to the backs of the knees and insides of the elbows. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Dry, scaly patches on the skin, which may be red
  • Severe itch that can interfere with a child’s sleep
  • If scratched, patches may develop blisters that ooze and crust over, and may become infected

What causes eczema?

Eczema is more like an allergy than a disease, and your child can’t catch it from (or give it to) another child. Eczema is the third element of the allergic march, which also contains allergies and asthma. The most common type of eczema, called atopic dermatitis, seems to be the result of a child’s immune system being overly sensitive to allergens in the environment, though researchers are still trying to learn more. Kids may be more likely to develop eczema if:

  • They have family members with eczema, seasonal or food allergies, or asthma
  • They live in a large city and/or a cold climate
  • They are female
  • They were born later in their mother’s life

How is eczema treated and prevented?

Because it’s believed to be inherited, at least in part, there’s really no way to prevent eczema. But kids who have eczema often have specific triggers that can make it flare up. Identifying and avoiding these triggers can help. Other tips for reducing flare-ups include:

  • Keeping your child’s skin moisturized
  • Avoiding scratchy clothes and synthetic fabrics
  • Using laundry detergent, soaps and dryer sheets that are free of dyes and perfumes
  • Helping your child avoid scratching
  • Eliminate allergens from the home (use hyper-allergenic pillow covers, turn off ceiling fans, and remove stuffed animals and carpeting when possible)

Medical treatment usually involves over-the-counter and/or prescription creams that contain a steroid, sometimes along with antihistamines and other medications. If the skin becomes infected, an antibiotic may be needed. If you think your child has eczema, speak with your pediatrician. If you need a pediatrician, call (888) 487-0183 or find a doctor near you