What is eczema?

Eczema is a non-contagious skin condition that usually appears within the first 6 months to 5 years of a child’s life. It’s characterized by itching, red skin and rashes.  Eczema may also be called atopic dermatitis (AD). I often refer to eczema as “sensitive skin.” One must be careful with foods, skin products, and types of clothing that are irritating to the skin.

What causes eczema?

Eczema develops from a combination of genes and environmental triggers. While researchers haven’t determined the exact causes, families with a history of hay fever, asthma, and AD are more likely to have children with eczema.

More recent studies reveal aggressive moisturizers on an infant’s skin during the first 2 weeks of a child’s life may prevent the development of eczema !

Common triggers of eczema include:

Skin irritants: An irritant is any substance that causes itching and redness. These include harsher chemicals, soaps, and skin care products that contain alcohol or fragrance. Certain fabrics, like wool, can also trigger eczema.

Allergens: Substances like pollen, dust, and pet dander (eczema is not an allergy itself, but allergies may trigger it.)

– There is documented association between food allergy and eczema among children. Children under the age of 5 who have moderate to severe eczema should be evaluated for milk, egg, peanut, wheat, and soy allergies, as food allergy may be a trigger factor.

Environment: Dry air can cause the skin to become dry and itchy, while heat and high humidity can also make itching worse.

Stress: High levels of stress have been shown to trigger eczema.

Does eczema differ among infants, toddlers, and older children?

Yes! Eczema changes as a child grows, in location and appearance. It’s important to know what to look for.

0-6 months old: Eczema typically appears on the scalp, forehead, chin, cheeks, and face. It can also occur in other areas of the body, but these are the most common..

6-12 months old: Eczema typically appears on the knees and elbows. In the case of “super”  infection, it can form a yellow crust or small pus bumps on the skin, which may require antibiotics.

2-5 years old: Eczema is likely to appear in hand, elbow, knee, wrist, or ankle creases. It can also appear around the eyelids and mouth.

5+ years old: Eczema typically appears within the folds of areas, rather than the superficial creases. It can also appear on the child’s hands, behind the ears, and on their feet.

How can I control my child’s eczema?

The best way to prevent eczema is to avoid exacerbating triggers, then moisturize the skin to keep eczema from worsening or from becoming “super- infected” with yeast or bacterial infections.

However, there are products that help manage eczema:

Moisturizer: You can find a list here of moisturizers approved by the National Eczema Foundation.

– Apply these at least twice a day, in a thick layer.

– Always apply moisturizers very soon after bathing, to lock in as much moisture as possible on the surface of the skin.

Steroid Ointments: Mild eczema may require using a low-potency steroid ointment, which are over the counter(OTC).  These are also called topical corticosteroids. I will help you determine what is appropriate.

– Apply no more than twice a day.

– Avoid applying these in the child’s folds, and use a milder steroid to treat the face.

– Do not use on eyelids.

– Always apply moisturizer on top of the steroid ointment.

Cleansers:  Click here for a list of cleansers approved by the National Eczema Foundation. Minimizing cleansers and soaps as much as possible will help.

Diet: Histamine is produced by the immune system to cause inflammation, so foods containing histamines (alcohol, matured cheeses, shellfish, chocolates, pickled foods, etc) should be avoided.

Foods with histamine-lowering nutrients like bananas, potatoes, buckwheat, rice milk, green onions, and beef and chicken broth, are considered eczema-safe.