Eczema in Children
Eczema is an inflammation of the skin. It makes parts of the skin red, itchy, and scaly. It may last for a long time or come and go.
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Eczema is caused by the immune system overreacting. It is not known exactly why this happens. It may be due to genes, diet, and things in the environment.
Eczema is more common in children.
Things that may raise the risk are:
- Having a family history of eczema or allergies
- Having asthma or allergies
- Changes to certain genes
- Eating a diet high in sugar and certain fats
- Coming from a small family
- Living in urban areas or places with low humidity
Many things can trigger flare-ups of eczema. Some common ones are:
- Very hot and very cold climates
- Exposure to allergens or irritants such as:
- Certain fabrics
- Perfumes in soaps
- Dust mites (common)
- Nickel in jewelry
- Certain plants
- Latex, such as in rubber gloves
- Cigarette smoke
- Washing, scratching or rubbing the skin often
Eczema usually begins at three to six months of age. It may improve by ages five to seven years. For some, it continues into adolescence and early adulthood.
Symptoms can appear anywhere on the body. They may include:
- Dry, itchy skin
- Cracks behind the ears or in skin creases
- Red patches on the cheeks, arms, and legs
- A red, scaly rash
- Thick, leathery skin
- Crusting, oozing, or cracking of the skin
The doctor will ask about the child’s symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. The diagnosis is based on symptoms and how the skin looks. The child may need to see an allergy or skin doctor for testing.
There is no cure for eczema. The goals of treatment are to heal the skin and prevent flare-ups.
Options may be:
- Skin care to reduce irritation and dry skin, such as:
- Using moisturizing creams
- Limiting baths and showers
- Avoiding irritating soaps and gels
- Medicines such as:
- Steroid ointments to reduce inflammation
- Antihistamines to prevent itching
- Antibiotic pills or creams to treat infections
If skin care and medicines do not help, light therapy may be used on the skin.
Eczema is hard to prevent. Things that may help lower the risk in children are:
- Using formula with hydrolyzed casein or 100% whey protein
- Exposing children to pets at an early age
- Atopic dermatitis. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/eczema/atopic-dermatitis.
- Atopic dermatitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/atopic-dermatitis.
- Avena-Woods C. Overview of atopic dermatitis. The American Journal of Managed Care, 2017; 23 (8 Suppl): S115-S123.
- Eczema. Nemours KidsHealth website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/eczema-atopic-dermatitis.html.
- Eczema and atopic dermatitis. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/condition/eczema-and-atopic-dermatitis.
- What is eczema? National Eczema Association website. Available at: https://nationaleczema.org/eczema.
- Chelsea Skucek, MSN, BS, RNC-NIC
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