TREATMENT Beginning a specific skin routine from a young age – which can mean management becomes a way of life – is vital.
Affecting one in five children, eczema refers to several conditions that can cause the skin to become inflamed, red, dry, cracked, rough, irritated and/or itchy. There are different types of eczema, but most commonly the term is used to refer to the atopic (sensitive to allergens) kind.
For babies born with atopic eczema, the barrier function of their skin has been weakened or impaired. This barrier protects against allergens or irritants and prevents water loss. When it is impaired, however, the skin dries out and is also more vulnerable to infection, and the skin can become crusty, blistered and thickened.
Eczema usually presents in the first six months of life, often starting on the face or scalp and moving elsewhere as the child grows. The cause is unknown, though genetics are believed to play a key role.
While there is no cure, the good news is that condition can be managed well. If your baby has been diagnosed with eczema, you are about to become very familiar with the use of emollients.
Emollients will be a weekly expenditure of yours, as the generous use of emollients will hopefully form your baby’s missing barrier layer and help prevent flare ups.
During a flare-up, symptoms like itching, dryness and redness worsen. The intense itch can be extremely uncomfortable and can impact the child’s sleep.
To prevent a flare-up, watch out for triggers, which include irritants and allergens like soap, shampoo, detergents, fragrances or bubble bath, as well as stress. As the skin’s barrier is compromised, it is much more susceptible to infection. However, a treatment that uses a topical steroid usually returns the skin to its ‘maintenance phase’ again.
Food can also play a role in eczema, and many children who suffer from the condition will also experience food allergies. To work out what foods spark a flare-up, keep a food diary to see if a pattern appears.
Winter worsens eczema too, as central heating can dry the air, which in turn further dries out the already sensitive skin.
Even clothing can hurt! Seams and some fabrics can irritate the skin they contact. Soft cotton clothing is best, as it is breathable and less likely to rub off the skin and cause irritation.
Beginning a specific skin routine from a young age – which can mean management becoming a way of life – is vital. Don’t be fooled when the skin looks in good condition. Do not become complacent! Keep up with the moisturising routine to keep those flare-ups at bay. It really is key.
A daily bathing routine is also good idea, as this helps to hydrate the skin. Washing in warm water will soothe the skin and help prevent infections by keep it clean. Rather than using washes or soaps, which can dry out the skin, use an emollient cleanser, which will cleanse while also keeping the skin nicely hydrated.
Mercifully, as with many infant conditions, you and your baby are unlikely to remember any of these tedious times in a couple of years. Try to keep this in mind when you’re struggling to get through those itchy scratchy days!