Child Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis)
What is Eczema?
Eczema or atopic dermatitis is a non-contagious skin condition characterised by recurrent and itchy rashes.
Children with eczema usually have a family history of other allergy conditions, such as allergic rhinitis, allergic conjunctivitis or asthma. Eczema causes your child to have dry skin which is prone to irritation. Although it is a chronic condition and symptoms may periodically reoccur, eczema can be kept under control with good treatment. It may recur after a period of inactivity, usually caused by an allergen or stress factor; however children will generally outgrow this condition at an older age.
What Causes Eczema?
Although the cause of eczema is still not known, experts are certain that a child’s genes and environment play a large role in the development of eczema. While this is not conclusive, it has been observed that an overpowering immune response can cause a flare-up of the condition. In addition, children with a family history of allergic conditions are at higher risk of developing eczema.
Does My Child have Eczema?
Eczema presents very differently at various stages and phases of life. It commonly begins in infancy, although some children may display symptoms at a later age.
- Infants (0-6 months): At this age, eczema commonly appears over the scalp, forehead, cheeks and chin. Rashes may also spread to the torso, upper and lower limbs. The skin appears red, dry, itchy and bumpy.
- Babies (6-12 months): At this stage, eczema typically presents over the elbows and knees, as well as over areas that are exposed to friction caused by moving around. If an infection occurs, the skin may form a layer of yellowed crust or pimple-like bumps.
- Preschool-aged children (2-5 years): During this phase, eczema frequently develops on the face and areas where the skin creases (elbow folds, back of knees, wrists and ankles). The skin may appear dry, scaly or bumpy in some circumstances.
- Childhood to adolescence (5-18 years): At this point, eczema will mostly present around the neck, elbow folds, back of knees or over the hands. Rashes can appear red, scaly, bumpy and may have scratch marks. Severe cases of eczema can also affect generalised areas of the body and may result in the thickened skin.
The following conditions may also trigger or worsen eczema cases:
- Changes in the temperature or weather
- Heat and sweating
- Fragrances found in soaps or perfumes
- Interaction with pets, pollen, carpets or plush toys
- Contact with dust or dust mites
- Dry skin
How do I Care for a Child with Eczema?
School-going children and teenagers are more likely to present with eczema and skin infections. Visit the doctor immediately if you observe the following changes to your child’s rashes:
- Worsening or spreading of affected areas
- Running a fever
- Affected areas are red and warm to the touch
- Pus-like bumps on or near affected areas
- Rashes interfering with your child’s daily activities and sleep
It is helpful to keep an eczema diary to help track and manage your child’s eczema flare-ups. Regular observation and documentation can help identify the source or trigger of the episodes and help you take steps to keep it under control.
Eczema may be prevented by taking the following measures:
- When showering, avoid taking frequent hot baths and scented soaps
- Use lukewarm water and mild soaps
- Avoid excessive scrubbing or rubbing with a towel, pat dry skin instead
- Moisturise the skin after showering, taking care to avoid products containing alcohol
- Wear loose-fitting and soft cotton clothing
- Keep nails short to prevent worsening of the condition due to scratching
- Eliminate allergens which may trigger the occurrence