Eczema, also referred to as dermatitis, is one of the commonest skin complaints in kids and adults, and it can range from a mild irritation to a chronic affliction. There are several different types of the disease but atopic eczema is the strain most likely to effect children – one in five suffer to some degree. It can develop in babies before they reach their first birthday and though in 65 per cent of cases it has cleared up by 16, for others it remains an issue into adulthood.
Though doctors are still uncertain about the precise cause of atopic eczema, it’s associated with allergies and diet. Children with hay fever and asthma may also be at a higher risk, and the condition can be passed genetically from parents to their kids. Eczema is not contagious, however. The condition takes the form of patches of dry, cracked, flaky and inflamed skin. This can be itchy, and if scratched may bleed and become infected. Any area where the skin is under stress can be affected – joints, the backs of knees and elbows, and the face. Stress and heat can also make the condition worse.
There is no cure for eczema, and if your child suffers you’ll need to visit your GP, but there are lots of things you can do to manage the condition. Scratching makes the discomfort worse, so discourage this and keep your kids’ fingernails cut short. It’s also very important to keep the skin properly hydrated, so avoid conventional soap, which dries the skin out. Your doctor will prescribe emollients – intensive moisturising creams which can be applied all over the body. Mild steroid creams can also be prescribed by your doctor. In some cases certain foods, such as dairy products, exacerbate eczema. You should talk to your doctor and a dietician about keeping a food diary and, if necessary, cutting out certain kinds of foods.
The physical discomfort of eczema can be hard for kids to deal with, but there are psychological issues too, both personal and as a result of teasing. The important thing to remember is that millions of people do live with the condition, that it may get better as your child grows up, and that with the right treatment it isn’t hard to control.
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