As the temperature dips, you may notice that your child’s skin seems a little dry and itchy. In fact, most kids will suffer from dry skin at some point, especially during the colder months. But for some, that irritated skin is actually a group of conditions known as eczema, which affects approximately one in ten kids.
“Eczema usually appears as red, rough areas on the skin, and is typically itchy,” says Brandi M. Kenner-Bell, M.D, Society for Pediatric Dermatology committee member. “While there is no cure, many babies outgrow it at age four, and symptoms can be relieved with the help of a consistent skincare routine and early treatment,“ she says. Follow these tips to help keep eczema symptoms under control.
A gentle skincare routine from the time your child is a newborn is one of the best ways to avoid an eczema flare-up. Additionally, it may potentially help to lower your child’s risk of developing the condition later in life. “I always recommend to parents, short (five to ten minute) daily baths with warm water using a mild, fragrance-free wash,” says Kenner-Bell. “Also, try to apply moisturizer two times a day, once after bathing and then again one other time during the day.”
The following tips can be useful:
- Avoid giving your child hot baths, as they can dry the skin.
- Skip excessive scrubbing which can cause irritation.
- Choose fragrance-free lotions and moisturizers.
- Ask your doctor about oatmeal-based moisturizers.
- Dress your child in clothing that is soft and breathable, preferably made from 100 percent cotton.
- When using wipes, pick ones that are alcohol-free such as WaterWipes, which is 99.9 percent H20 and accepted by the National Eczema Association of America.
Treatments and why they work
There are various treatments depending on the severity and the root cause of your child’s eczema. These treatments can reduce inflammation and itch as well as restore the skin barrier. “For mild eczema, moisturizers may suffice, but some may need topical steroid creams or other topical immunomodulator creams and antihistamines as well,” says Dr. Purvi Parikh, an allergist with the Allergy & Asthma Network. “In severe cases, injectable biologic medications such as Dupilumab or allergen immunotherapy (allergy shots) may be given.”
It is essential to identify the things that can trigger your child’s eczema and a board-certified allergist/immunologist can help you to do so. “In kids under age two, it can be a food allergen, so best to avoid that food until the child outgrows it,” says Parikh. For kids older than two years, environmental allergens such as dust mites, mold, pollen, cats, and dogs are common triggers. “In those instances, allergy immunotherapy or desensitization may help,” she says.
Other common triggers can be excessive bathing without moisturizing, low humidity, cigarette or wood smoke exposure, sweat, friction and overheating of skin, and exposure to certain products such as wool, harsh soaps, fragrance, bubble baths, laundry detergents and cold weather which trigger eczema in those with sensitive skin.
Myths and confusion
Often people think eczema is contagious or triggered by stress, but neither is true. “Stress cannot cause eczema but can make it worse, as with any medical condition,” says Parikh. “It also often gets confused with psoriasis, which has its own triggers. It can be challenging to differentiate rashes, so if unsure, it is best to see a specialist but in general eczema favors, back of knees, elbows.”