When your little ones suffer from eczema, all you want to do is soothe their skin. But it’s important to have a deeper understanding of it. “Eczema is generally a hereditary condition,” Latanya T. Benjamin, MD, FAAD Associate Professor of Pediatric Dermatology and Consulting Dermatologist for Mustela, tells SheKnows. “Eczema is 40 to 50% more likely to occur in children if one parent has a history of the condition. This increases to 50 to 80% if both parents suffer with eczema.”
So how is eczema different in children from adults? “Generally, it’s the same idea,” Dr. Hadley King, MD, Clinical Instructor of Dermatology at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University and Consulting Dermatologist for AcneFree, tells SheKnows. “Although it is possible to develop adult-onset eczema, most adults who have eczema have had it since childhood. For most kids, eczema improves with age but this is not true for everyone.”
Eczema can be further irritated by heat and sweating, as well as allergens. “In my experience, about half of my pediatric patients have worse eczema in the wintertime (due to excessive dryness of the skin and lack of atmospheric humidity) and the other half in the summer (due to heat that triggers intense itching),” Benjamin says. “Unfortunately, patients with the worst cases of eczema can be impacted year-round.”
Though eczema is mostly hereditary, there are other things that can trigger it, namely stress. “Like I tell my patient families, stress never helps any skin condition — whether it be acne, psoriasis or eczema,” Benjamin says. “While stress may have a role in eczema, it is not the sole cause of it.”
Aside from keeping your kid zen, there are other things parents can do to help their children’s eczema stay under control. “Every patient has their own specific triggers that may result in an eczema flare,” Benjamin says. “The key is to identify those triggers and avoid them whenever possible. As a guiding principle, all patients with eczema should avoid excessive drying of the skin with long hot baths or showers and stick to bathing in cooler water. Patients should avoid harsh detergents and soaps, fragrances and any known allergic foods identified on formal testing, such as shellfish and peanuts.”
Tending to the skin barrier is the key to managing eczema, King says. “This means diligent use of hydrators and emollients and cleansing only with very gentle soap substitutes like Dove Beauty Bar, that won’t strip the skin of its natural oils and dry out the skin like detergents can. Humidifiers can also be helpful. When necessary, there are prescription medications that can be used to manage eczema, including topical and systemic corticosteroids and other immunomodulators.”
A common mistake that parents make is sometimes they’re scared to use topical corticosteroids on their kids because they have read about possible side effects. “Although there are possible side effects, when these medications are used appropriately they can be both safe and effective,” King says. Another thing to keep in mind: “Since facial eczema is often mistaken for other persistent facial rashes, including irritation dermatitis, it is important to make sure that you take care of it correctly,” Benjamin says.
Eczema is a chronic condition that comes and goes, so parents shouldn’t blame themselves when a flare-up happens. Just stick to your child’s skincare routine and it will get better. Benjamin says, “Consistency and maintenance are key for eczema-prone skin.” Use eczema products that are specifically designed to soothe your kids’ skin, like these: