Eczema in Children

By Rebecca Pillar

Eczema is a scary sounding word used to describe skin inflammation -- also known as dermatitis. It is important to understand that eczema is not contagious. Although eczema is most common in children under two -- children, adolescents and some adults do tend to have flare ups.

The most common form of eczema in infants and toddlers is called cradle cap. The exact cause of this is unknown but some researchers believe it is linked to overactive sebaceous (oil) glands in the skin. Cradle cap generally has the appearance of yellow, flakey, scaly and patchy or even a greasy rash on a newborn’s head. Most incidences of cradle cap develop in the first few months of life but have been known to appear in much older babies. It generally clears up on its own as a baby matures, but some parents/caregivers choose to try home remedies, over the counter shampoos or even medicated creams prescribed by a pediatrician.

Before attempting any form of treatment on your infant, please consult your healthcare professional. Infants skin is sensitive and you could possibly break the skin or worsen the condition/appearance.

When eczema appears on other parts of the body (face, inside elbows, behind knees, buttocks, neck) it is referred to as Atopic eczema. This type of eczema is believed to be somewhat hereditary. The difference between this type of eczema and cradle cap is that this type comes with discomfort. Where cradle cap does not bother a child, this form of eczema causes skin to itch. Scratching these areas causes the skin to thicken, blister and cabn lead to infection. Science has also linked the increased risk of developing asthma and hay fever to atopic eczema.

Children who suffer from atopic eczema can experience flare ups. The affected areas will be bothersome and then get better. Special consideration needs to be made for school aged children. Eczema can be embarrassing. Be sure to give your child a lot of reassurance.

Another form of eczema is the type that is brought on by external factors. Some people develop eczema after exposure to an allergen or something that is irritating to the skin. The only way to prevent or cure this form of eczema is to avoid contact with the allergen or remove the irritant from your surroundings.

Many people also complain in the winter months of winter skin. People most affected by this are those that live in areas where the climate becomes very cold in the winter. The skin becomes dry, itchy and irritated. The condition can become so severe that it develops into eczema.

There are several things you can do as a parent if your child suffers from eczema:

1.) Only purchase detergent soaps that are free of dyes and perfumes.

2.) During eczema flare ups, washing your child with soap can actually make the condition worse. When skin becomes irritated, simply rinse your child with water.

3.) Apply moisturizer (designed for sensitive skin) daily to help keep skin moistened.

4.) Remind your child how important it is not to scratch their skin.

5.) Ask your child’s doctor if an anti-itch lotion is appropriate.

6.) In severe cases, doctors can prescribe topical creams to help suppress symptoms.

The use of such creams (including steroids) on young children is a controversial topic in the health community. Ask questions and do some research on the suggested medication if this is offered as a treatment option.