Ouch, your little one has eczema. Itching, lots of itching, scratching and…crying.
Ok, now what?
From my own experience and that of my son I know this can be really disturbing. An itchy skin rash which mainly appears on the face, the head, in the cavities of elbows and knees, on wrists and ankles. It inflicts itching, a lot of itching and so… scratching. Well, just try to leave it alone. Almost impossible so there’s nothing you want more than to break this vicious circle of itching and scratching.
And fortunately, you can. You can’t cure eczema, but you can very well reduce it with a neutral ointment or cream. Avoid the use of soap as much as possible and reduce the frequency of bathing. Because this actually increases the symptoms. On a positive note: eczema isn’t dirty or contagious. So you can just keep cuddling with you child!
Eczema is a itching skin rash paired with redness, swelling, flakes, bumps, chaps or scabs and itching. Eczema isn’t dirty or contagious, so touching and hugging each other can do no harm. The predisposition for allergies can aggravate eczema. This can present itself in conditions such as astma or hay fever. Often other family members have eczema, hay fever or astma as well. Eczema can develop iyself at a very young age, starting about 3 to 4 months of age after birth or at an older age. Complaints, eczema flare-ups can aggravate during specific periods but also disappear again.
Eczema is characterized as an inflammatory reaction of the skin causing an itching skin rash. Manifestations of this inflammation are redness, swelling and the skin feeling warm. Besides this typical characteristics such as blisters, fluid secretion, flakes and yes, the scratch effect.
With kids below the age of 2, eczema starts on the cheeks and on head. After the age of 2 it often spreads to the skin folds of joints like the elbows and knees, the wrists and ankles and sometimes in the neck and around the eyes. To know for sure if your child suffers form eczema it is important that you recognise it so you can also treat it the right way.
Where is eczema located:
Inside the elbows, the back of the knee
Stomach and buttocks
Behide the ears, in the neck
On the face, around the mouth and eyes
Causes & Triggers
How does eczema originate?
The exact cause of eczema is unknown. Kind of weird really. However the predisposition for eczema, heredity, plays an important role in eczema. Making it one of the most common skin disorders seen with kids. 1 out of 5 children has eczema and often at a young age right after birth. It seems that there might be a genetically deviation ( of one of the proteins in the skin) that will lead in to a reduced protection function of the skin. The ability of the skin to retain water is reduced which causes the skin to dry out more quickely. A dehydrated skin is more suspectible for external irritants. Eczema is often goed togheter with the predisposition for allergies in which the body is more sensitive for certain compounds or external irritation. Eczema can be aggravated by different factors. We listed different causes:
Some possible causes highlighted:
Food allergy (cowmilk is often the main, sometimes even the only bad guy)
Allergic to pets, mite and smoke
Stress (think of Christmas, the start of school)
Contact allergens (after touching a certain compound, rough clothing)
Climate changes (warm weather or especially cold weather, frost)
Frequently bathing with water and soap or with shampoo
Diseases (infections) like a sore throat, a common cold or influenza
And besides these probably a whole lot more
Advice & Tips
The first step is to take good care of your child’s skin ensuring the skin is less dry and therefore reducing the urge to scratch and with this the itching. Below you can read our advice on how to do so. If anything, don’t start messing around with all sorts af different products, a child’s skin is vulnerable and no terrain for experimenting. First of all choose a cream that you can trust due to the mode of action and the ingredients, offering the relief that you’re looking for. A happy kid, a happy you!
What can you do to reduces and/or prevent scratching?
Keep the nails of your child short
Place gloves or socks over the hands if necessary when you notice it scratches a lot. Or sew the ends of the sleeves togheter. This might sound a little harsh but this will prevent you to continuously having to put the glove back on again. And with it the stress.
Prevent dehydration of the skin, but… Don’t go crazy by lubricating with the first lotion or cream available trying to keep the skin moist! Kids with eczema have a different fat composition in the skin from origin: the skin is more dry.
How do you prevent the skin form dehydrating?
Bathing of showering: reduce the frequency of bathing (not more than 2-3 times a week), not too warm (body temperature of 37 degrees is warm enough) and not too long (5 minutes max.)
Avoid or try to minimalize the usage of soap, shampoo or bathf oam. Your baby has a nice enough smell from it’s own.
You can add a couple of drops of oil to the water, however it must be unperfumed (soja oil, arachid oil or other unperfumed oils)
Kids with eczema have a different fat compostion in the skin from origin: the skin is more dry. Therefor the first step is to take care of the skin with a neutral, fatty cream that you apply once or twice a day on the skin to prevent dehydration. “Neutral” in this case means that it contains no medication. These creams ensure that the skin will retain more water/moist and will protect the skin from itching and irritation.
Examples of neutral creams:
Cetomacrogol ointment or cream
Lanette ointment or cream
Cooling cream (unguentum leniens)
Salve the eczema affected areas according to its needs and keep nourishing the skin after repair. This way the eczema will keep quiet and your little one too.
Using corticosteroids In some cases, in case of persistent eczema, for example when you do not achieve the desired result with a neutral, greasy cream, the doctor can temporarily prescribe an ointment, cream or vaseline cream with corticosteroids. This is a hormone based cream. These inhibit the inflammatory reaction in the skin and also help against the itching.
Do you use corticosteroids to treat eczema and do you want to use a neutral ointment or cream for skin care? Then wait at least an hour before applying it.
Breast feeding reduces the change for eczema Oh and last but not least, I have read once that breast feading could reduce the chance on eczema. I don’t know, with my son it didn’t work in the 4 months that I managed to do so but anyway, prevention is better than having to cure so it might be worth the try.
How to continue?
How to continue with eczema?
As mentioned, unfortunately you can’t cure eczema but it can be treated well to relieve the itching and support the skin repair. To keep the skin hydrated and flexible.
In principle, you don’t need to visit the GP unless you think that the complaints aren’t getting less but worse. Fluctuation of symptoms is a well known fact with eczema, some periods these can reduce or aggravate again. It is advised to keep your little one’s skin as calm as possible and to limit the possible irritations.
Most kids with eczema grow out of it and do not experience any symptoms after the age of 13. They do have an increased risk on hay fever and/or astma at a later age. After the age of 30 eczema is very un common.