All About Eczema

Winter’s cold temperatures and dry air can wreak havoc on children’s skin—especially if your child suffers from a chronic skin condition known as eczema. Proper skin care and medication can help alleviate your child’s symptoms and prevent flare-ups—during the winter months and year-round.

What is Eczema?

Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is a chronic skin condition in which the skin is dry, itchy and inflamed. Between 10 and 15 percent of people have atopic dermatitis. The condition is most common in children and generally appears during the first year of life.

Symptoms include patches of red, scaly and itchy skin. In infants, eczema often appears on the face, stomach, arms and legs. In toddlers, it frequently appears on the insides of the knees and elbows.

Eczema is not contagious, but it is a chronic condition, meaning there is no cure. Environmental and food allergens may be important triggers in some children. Genetics also are important. Children diagnosed with eczema generally have a family member with the condition or related disorders such as asthma, hay fever or other allergies.

Practicing good skin care and understanding the triggers that cause eczema to flare will help you manage your child’s condition.

Easing Eczema’s Itch

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, about 40 percent of children with eczema will outgrow the condition by the time they’re young adults. But relapses may occur later in life. Seeking medical treatment early will give you and your child the tools to manage this chronic condition.

Your pediatrician, family physician or dermatologist will determine the best treatment approach for your child’s eczema. Most often, this will include a combination of gentle skin care, lifestyle modifications and medication, including a topical steroid.

You can help lessen the frequency and severity of your child’s symptoms by practicing the following:

  • Hydrate the skin by soaking in frequent, lukewarm baths
  • Use mild, unscented soap for bathing
  • Pat skin dry with a cotton towel
  • Use thick, unscented moisturizer, twice daily (such as Vaseline®, Cetaphil®, Vanicream® or Aquaphor®).
  • Use mild, fragrance-free soaps and detergents
  • Dress your child in cotton clothing
  • Prevent or minimize environmental triggers, including dust mites and pet dander

More information, including recommendations on bathing and moisturizing, is available from the National Eczema Association.

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