Could my child have eczema?

What is eczema? People use the word eczema to mean different things. Medically, eczema refers to a group of non-contagious skin conditions that cause skin itch, swelling, and irritation. Types of eczema include seborrheic dermatitis (dandruff, infant "cradle cap") and contact dermatitis (poison ivy, diaper rash). Atopic dermatitis is the most common kind of eczema, especially among infants and children. About half of children with atopic dermatitis will outgrow the condition. The good news for the other half is that although flare-ups will happen, atopic dermatitis tends to become less severe as a child gets older.

What are the causes and risk factors for eczema? Unlike contact dermatitis, in which skin reacts to the touch of an irritant or allergen, the cause of atopic dermatitis is not completely known or understood. A child is more likely to have the atopic dermatitis variety of eczema if he or she has asthma or other seasonal or food allergies or if family members also have eczema.

What are the symptoms of eczema? The most common symptom of eczema is itchy skin, although the itch may come and go. In fact, a person with eczema may scratch their skin up to 1,000 times in any given day, earning the condition the nickname "the itch that rashes." The rash crops up as pink or red bumps – or a crusty patch if the skin is scratched too often. Eczema can appear on any part of a child's body but seem to be more prevalent on areas of skin that stretch and crease–the elbows and knees, for instance. An infant may experience eczema rashes on their cheeks and around their mouth.

Are there any complications of eczema? An infant or child who continually scratches itchy skin can break the skin and be at increased risk for infection. Scratching can also keep a child up at night, affecting sleep, which can in turn impact mood and concentration. When school-age children have the visible red lesions of eczema, it may cause anxiety and bring on teasing or bullying. And the fuss and side effects of medications and caring for the skin can be exhausting. Stick to your treatment and self-care plan: research has shown that sticking to treatment will improve your child's outcome and possibly reduce the need for medication in the future.

Is there a link between eczema and food allergies? Children with eczema are prone to having other types of allergies, including hay fever and food allergies. However, it is unlikely that eliminating a specific food from your child's diet will make a direct difference in their eczema symptoms.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2023. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source:

I think my child has eczema. What now?

Before you visit your child's doctor, try a few self-care measures and make lifestyle adjustments to see if your child's skin clears or symptoms lessen.

  • Soothe the itch. Reduce inflammation and itch by applying cool compresses to inflamed skin. Apply a gentle moisturizing lotion at least twice per day.
  • Follow a gentle bathing routine. When it comes to the extremely dry skin of eczema, water can be the enemy. Ask your pharmacist to help you choose delicate, non-soap products to cleanse your child's skin, avoiding potentially irritating bath products, like detergent soaps, bubble bath, or products containing fragrance. Oatmeal-containing bath products are soothing. Pat-dry your child's skin and apply a thick lotion to lock in moisture while skin is still damp.
  • Trim your child's nails. Keep those tiny nails trimmed short to prevent injury from over-zealous scratching. You might also give your child light gloves to wear at night to keep from scratching, which can let bacteria get beneath the skin and cause infection.
  • Choose itch-proof clothing and diapers. Shun fabrics that are itchy or binding. Loose-fitting cotton clothing will let your child's skin breathe and help to prevent overheating or excessive sweating, both of which can trigger a flare-up. Wash clothes in hypo-allergenic laundry detergent. Notice if your choice of diapers seems to cause any irritation and make a switch to see if symptoms lessen.
  • Keep cool–and be careful at the pool. Heat can worsen the symptoms of eczema. When spending time outdoors or in the sun, be sure your child takes breaks from the heat. Chlorine from the pool can inflame skin, but you can minimize the risk by cleansing your child's skin right after swimming. And if you are hesitant to slather sunscreen on your child's sensitive skin, shop for formulas specially designed for sensitive or eczema-prone skin.
  • Clear out dust mites. Children's symptoms may be reduced if you can keep dust mites from accumulating in your home. Clean your child's room each week, wiping surfaces with a damp cloth and airing the room once you have finished. To limit the amount of dust in your child's room, limit the number of surfaces in the room, meaning minimal furniture and a no-furry-pets policy. Place plastic covers over your child's box spring, mattress, and in between pillow and pillowcase. Hardwoods can be easier to keep dust-free, but carpets and rugs should be fine if they're diligently vacuumed.
  • Track your child's triggers. See if you can pinpoint a pattern in your child's skin flare-ups. You may note that your child's skin worsens after playing with a certain toy or when wearing a particular outfit. Triggers include detergents, soaps, fragrances, smoke, some foods, and emotional stress. Knowing what might cause your child's skin irritation could also help with diagnosis if you do decide to see a doctor. If food might be a trigger, talk to a dietitian about the safest way to eliminate foods from your child's diet without increasing the risk of nutritional deficiencies.

Make an appointment with your child's doctor if your child's skin does not improve after self-care steps and trigger-tracking or if the condition suddenly worsens. Seek prompt care if you notice signs of potential skin infection, including fever; redness or warmth on or around affected skin; pus-filled papules; or areas on skin that look like cold sores or fever blisters.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2023. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source:

What types of treatments might be prescribed for my child's eczema?

If your child is diagnosed with eczema, you will likely be given a prescription for one or more of the following types of medications:

Corticosteroids: These prescription-requiring medications are applied directly to the skin to reduce inflammation and ease itch. There are many on the market, some more potent than others. A low-dose over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream is available in most pharmacies.

Antihistamines: A dose of prescribed antihistamine may be safely given to help your child cope with the intense itch that eczema causes. Whether or not they actually stop the itch, these medications do help a child to ignore under-the-covers itchiness and to sleep through the night.

Antibiotics: All the scratching can introduce bacteria into the skin and boost infection risk. Should an infection develop, your child may be prescribed an antibiotic in order to kill off any offending bacteria.

Calcineurin inhibitors: These creams keep your child's immune system from releasing the chemicals that trigger inflammation and the redness and itching that occurs. These medications are used after other treatments have been tried, and should not be used by children under 2 years of age or continuously.

Colloidal oatmeal: This form of oatmeal (which allows it to be dispersed properly in the bath water) is often prescribed to be used in the bath when the eczema is extensive and itchy. A before-bed bath in itself can also be soothing.

Emollients and hydrating creams and ointments: Using these helps to keep the area soothed and moisturized. Ointments are a bit more effective than creams. Look for these ingredients:

  • glycerin
  • propylene glycol
  • petrolatum
  • alpha-hydroxy acids
  • lanolin
  • mineral oil
  • urea

Soapless cleansers: These "soaps" are effective at cleaning the skin without the irritation sometimes caused by traditional soaps.

Use these medications exactly as prescribed by your doctor or dermatologist and as instructed by a consulting pharmacist. Keep up the treatment as long as recommended, as this condition generally lasts for a while and stopping medications too early may cause another flare-up. If treatments show no sign of helping, return to the doctor to see if the condition might be something different such as psoriasis. The two conditions can look similar.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2023. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: