Childhood Eczema:

Causes, Prevention and Treatment

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It’s not uncommon for kids to develop itchy and uncomfortable rashes on occasion.  Unfortunately, eczema can be a more prolonged and problematic condition – one that’s only made worse by scratching.

Eczema manifests in different ways for different sufferers. Generally characterised by red and irritated skin – sometimes with small fluid-filled bumps – eczema can be unbearably itchy and painful. It can occur at any time during childhood and cannot always be attributed to a specific cause.

That said, it is known that children from families with a history of asthma or allergies are more inclined to develop eczema than others. In fact, research suggests that approximately 50% of children who develop eczema will also develop asthma or hay fever during their life.

Signs, Symptoms and Diagnosis

Formally diagnosing a case of eczema can be tricky as it presents differently from one child to the next. However, it’s important to consult with a dermatologist if your child develops any kind of rash or skin complaint that seems out of the ordinary.

A simple examination of the affected area will usually be enough for your dermatologist to make an informed assessment. The vast majority of cases of childhood eczema can be treated successfully with topical corticosteroids – the most common of which being hydrocortisone. Stronger corticosteroids and/or antibiotics may be prescribed for more severe cases or where there is evidence of a secondary infection.

While there is nothing that can be done to eliminate the risk of eczema returning, topical corticosteroids are generally effective and can be used by most sufferers with minimal risk of side-effects.

Prevention of Eczema

The exact causes of eczema are still a mystery to scientists but it is believed that the condition is inherited. This would therefore mean that there is nothing that can be done to prevent it outright.

Instead, it’s a case of identifying and (where possible) minimising exposure to the most common eczema triggers. The following have been identified as some of the most common triggers of childhood eczema by leading dermatologists:

  • Animal hair and dander
  • Household dust
  • Pollen
  • Certain detergents and fabric softeners
  • Dry indoor air
  • Some soaps and shampoos
  • Exposure to tobacco smoke
  • General skincare products
  • Perfumes and deodorants
  • Household cleaning products
  • Emotional stress and anxiety
  • Food allergies
  • Excessive sweating
  • Imperfect personal hygiene

There’s no specific evidence to suggest that any of these triggers can cause eczema in the first place. They’ve simply been identified as having the potential to cause flare-ups and/or make cases of childhood eczema worse than they already are.

Helping Children Cope with Eczema

As there is no specific ‘cure’ for eczema it is simply a case of doing what you can to help your kids cope. Dermatologists advise the following:

  • Avoid heavily scented products where possible
  • Avoid rough and potentially irritating clothing
  • Discourage scratching where possible
  • Encourage better hydration to keep the skin moist

If you have any questions or concerns regarding childhood eczema, book a consultation with your dermatologist at the earliest possible stage.