Right now, around 15% of children are affected by eczema, or dermatitis (AD). The incidence of eczema in children is increasing in present times.  Eczema (as defined by the New York-Presbyterian Dermatology Glossary) is a skin disorder that is characterized by itching, scaling, thickening of the skin, and is usually located on the face, elbows, knees, and arms.  A more general understanding of it, however, is that it is a group of skin conditions causing skin to be itchy, irritated, even swollen.  Eczema often manifests itself in children as a recurring rash, or dry scaly patches on the arms and legs.  It can begin at two months of age.

Some types of eczema are contracted through contact with an irritant or allergen (i.e. poison ivy, nickel).  Eczema can be exacerbated by touching coins?  Apparently so, for some unlucky kids!  If you needed another reason to keep your kids from popping change in their mouths… there you have it!

Other kinds of eczema are less understood.  Researchers believe that there can be a genetic variable involved, or that some kids have overactive immune systems.  Another problem is what is referred to as the “barrier effect,” which basically means having “gaps” in the skin.  The gaps are responsible for the skin losing moisture too quickly, and allowing germs and other nasty things to enter the body through the skin.

 

Here are some ways to deal with this irritating problem:

Moisturize. Use lotions daily, 2-4 times over the entire body (especially where affected). Eucerin is a trusted brand, as is Aquafor.  These can be bought over-the-counter.  The best time to use lotion is after bathing.  As far as bath time goes, let those kids soak!  Warm water can help to rehydrate the skin (avoid overexposure to soapy water, however, as this will probably make the problem worse by drying the skin out further).  Use unscented moisturizing soaps, and be sure to gently towel dry!

Avoid Irritants. Try to dress your kids in cotton, as wool and synthetics as they can irritate the skin.  Also, wash new clothes to rid them of chemicals. The same goes for bedding- sheets, blankets, pajamas.  Again, don’t use scented or perfumed soaps and lotions.  Or bubble bath!  Use dye-free detergents (liquids wash out more completely)

Be Prepared. There are times when eczema can act up worse than normal, like  when it’s dry in the wintertime, or in summer if a child tends to overheat or spend lots of time swimming in chlorinated pools.  Infections can go hand in hand with eczema, so you may want to keep some antibiotic ointments in addition to whatever regular treatment you’ve decided on.

If conditions aren’t getting better at all, it may be time for a trip to a pediatric dermatologist.  They may prescribe topical steroids, antihistamines, or immunomodulators (which are steroid-free).  There are also oral steroids, UV therapy, wet dressings and immunosuppressive drugs.  As eczema can be an irritating and unpredictable condition to have to manage in children, it’s best to try and be prepared and knowledgeable about treatment options and possible side effects.