Soothing the Itch of Eczema:

What causes it and how to treat it



Have you ever looked at your child’s skin and noticed dry, flaky places? Or skin that is a little rough with a yellow hue? Maybe red bumps on her cheeks or arms? While a child may develop a rash on occasion, eczema is a condition that tends to hang on for a period of time. Approximately one in 10 children will develop eczema (KidsHealth.org), but the good news is that the majority of children will outgrow this before they hit the teenage years.    

Eczema can develop at any age, but most commonly begins before the age of 5 and often presents itself in the first few months of life. While the exact cause is unknown, the belief is a combination of family heredity and everyday conditions trigger the skin to have a reaction (NationalEczema.org). The condition often is found in someone who also suffers from hay fever or asthma. While not dangerous in and of itself, the itchiness of the rash can cause lesions to open up and weep with excessive scratching. Eczema is not contagious but does tend to run in families, and if one sibling or parent has it, the likelihood of another child’s developing it is greater. 

Signs and symptoms can vary depending on the age of the child. When eczema first appears, most often between 2 and 6 months, the skin is dry, red and itchy, with small bumps on the baby’s cheeks, forehead or scalp. As the child gets older, the rash may spread to the legs and trunk and may become crusted with open lesions. These symptoms often worsen then improve over time, with flare-ups occasionally occurring.

While there is no cure for eczema, treatments can soothe and reduce the side effects. Mild eczema often can be controlled with a few lifestyle changes, a mild soap that won't dry out skin and a good moisturizer that should be applied immediately after bathing, as well any time it’s necessary. Adding a humidifier and reducing stress also can help (WebMD.com). With severe cases, medication may be needed. Over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream is commonly used. If that is not effective, a doctor can prescribe a steroid cream. Over-the-counter antihistamines and prescription corticosteroids also may be beneficial. If this medication doesn’t help, your doctor may prescribe other interventions, such as ultraviolet light therapy, immunosuppressants, and immunodulators (WebMD.com). Finding the regimen that keeps your child’s skin from becoming too dry and itchy and avoiding known triggers are the keys to managing eczema. Maintaining open communication with the child’s physician is imperative too.

    Jessica Heine is a labor and delivery nurse. She lives in Olathe with her family.

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