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Managing Your Child's Eczema

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Atopic dermatitis, commonly known as eczema, is a chronic skin condition characterized by itchy, red patches of dry skin. In kids suffering from eczema, the skin barrier is not working normally, causing excessive dryness. The skin’s inability to retain moisture due to the defective skin barrier often causes irritation and severe itching.

Eczema affects 10 to 20 percent of all children and can be caused by environmental triggers, genetics, or allergies. Eczema can have a huge effect on the quality of life of the child and the family. Poor sleep due to irritated skin can affect school performance, concentration, and home life. Here are five tips for managing your child’s eczema and minimizing flare-ups:

  • Moisturize their skin consistently. Bathe your child or infant daily in warm water using unscented soap sparingly. Avoid washcloths, sponges, or loofas, as they can worsen irritation. Gently pat the skin dry and immediately apply an unscented moisturizing ointment or cream to seal the moisture in the skin. A daily moisturizer should be applied two to four times a day, preferably to the whole body, and especially to the inflamed or irritated areas. Ointments and creams are more effective at sealing in moisture than lotions or oils.
  • Avoid irritants or triggers. Sometimes clothing materials like wool, cashmere, spandex, polyester, or nylon will irritate a child’s skin. Try to stick with cotton clothing and sheets, washing them regularly in liquid detergents that are fragrance and dye-free.
  • Manage the itching. Excessive scratching can make the child’s skin itchier, and cause the eczema to worsen. If your child experiences a flare-up, keep them in long sleeves or pants and consider administering an over-the-counter, non-drowsy oral antihistamine.
  • Use a topical steroid cortisone cream. Mild corticosteroids are found over-the-counter, but stronger creams need to be administered by a dermatologist.  Steroids vary in potency and it will be up to you and your child’s dermatologist to determine the strength of the cream and how often it needs to be applied.
  • Protect and prepare for staphylococcus aureus. Children with eczema are often also colonized with a bacterium known as staphylococcus aureus. To combat this, dilute bleach baths done two to three times a week can help reduce the amount of bacteria and allow the skin to heal. To make the bath water add one-fourth cup of plain, unscented bleach to half a bathtub or half a cup to a full bathtub of water. Let your child sit in the water for 10 minutes then rinse off and moisturize as usual.
  • See a dermatologist to establish a treatment plan.  As a dermatologist, I see many patients who want to understand how to manage the worst symptoms of eczema. My goal is to work together with parents to make a skin care plan, reduce irritants, as well as prescribe stronger medicated creams which can help keep flare ups at bay.

Make an appointment with a Children’s National dermatologist if you feel your child may be suffering from eczema. Schedule an appointment by calling the BEAR Line at 888-884-BEAR (2327).


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