Eczema (Children)

Eczema, a generic term, applies to a range of non-contagious skin conditions with symptoms such as crusting, redness, rashing, swelling, dryness, flaking and even bleeding.
The most common type of eczema is atopic eczema, otherwise known as atopic dermatitis. This can also be called ‘flexural eczema’ as it usually affects the folded skin areas around your child’s joints, particularly behind his/her knees, the inside of his/her elbows, the side of his/her neck as well as around your child’s eyes and ears.
Due to widespread lifestyle changes, along with the increasing presence of more chemicals in our daily lives, an increasing number of people are being diagnosed with atopic eczema.
This increase could also be due to healthcare professionals becoming more aware of the symptoms.

Eczema is mostly present in children but it can continue into adulthood. In 80 percent of cases, atopic eczema develops before children reach 5 years old.

What are the different types of eczema?

  • Discoid eczema: Circular/oval patches of eczema usually affecting adults
  • Contact dermatitis: Eczema that is triggered when your body encounters a particular substance
  • Varicose eczema: Eczema on your legs, mostly around any swollen or enlarged veins
  • Seborrhoeic eczema: Scaly red patches of eczema on the eyebrows, scalp, sides of the nose and ears

What are the causes and triggers for eczema?

Eczema is mostly genetic and so it often runs in families. Some scientific studies have shown that for 60% of eczema cases, children with parents who have eczema will develop the symptoms of eczema.
Eczema symptoms are more likely in people who have allergies. Studies involving children and young people who had atopic eczema found that 35 to 70% of them also had a food allergy.
However, although the triggers for eczema are understood, the cause of atopic eczema is still unknown. Some of the common triggers that induce the itchiness, rashes and the other symptoms in sufferers are listed below.

  • Natural factors: Pet fur, pollen and dust, and house dust mites.
  • Food allergies: Wheat, eggs, soya, nuts and cow’s milk.
  • Environmental Factors: Harsh soaps, cold water, washing too often, dampness, chemicals on the skin (e.g. perfumes) and rough clothing (e.g. nylon or wool).
  • Physical Factors: Hormonal changes (especially in women), stress, overheating and exercise.

Is eczema a dangerous condition?

Eczema in itself does not lead to any serious long-term damage; however, the constant scratching/itching can lead to a range of other problems. Cracked, bleeding and sore skin is not uncommon with eczema, and having consistently broken skin often leads to infection. The disrupted sleep that many eczema sufferers experience due to discomfort, scratching and sometimes the irritation can be so extreme that a significant physical and mental toll is placed on their bodies.

How can you prevent the symptoms of eczema?

You should keep your child’s skin constantly moisturised. This additional moisture will prevent his/her skin from becoming cracked and overly dry, thus reducing itching and tenderness.
You should take extra care and avoid any substances that you know induce even a mild allergic reaction in your child, as well as all known irritants (soaps, detergents and irritating fabrics, for example).
The temperature in your home should be cool, because heat aggravates rashes.
There are medications, dressings, wet and dry wraps that will reduce the itching that accompanies severe eczema, as well as reducing any swelling. Speak to your IPSA pharmacist.

Remedies for eczema

Eczema usually only affects young children up to the teenage years and often clears up as the eczema sufferer matures.
For atopic eczema, 65% of cases clear up by the age of 16 and in some NHS-funded studies, 53% of the time, eczema clears up before the child reaches 11 years old.

What are the most common general treatments for eczema?

  • Emollients (moisturising treatments): These very common and important eczema treatments form a protective film over the skin to prevent water loss.
  • Topical corticosteroids: These treatments reduce the redness and swelling during eczema flare-ups.
  • Antihistamines: Help with severe itching.
  • Topical immunosuppressants (e.g. tacrolimus ointment or pimecrolimus cream): These help to reduce the body’s reaction.
  • Antibiotics: These usually effectively treat infected eczema.