Specialist expertise: Skin Cancer, Male Genital Skin Disease, Inflammatory Skin Diseases, Adult Dermatology, Paediatric Dermatology, Dermatology, Acne, Eczema, Psoriasis, Skin Biopsy, Curettage, Skin Tag Removal, Cryotherapy, Hidradenitis Suppurativa, Rosacea.
Eczema (or dermatitis, this means the same as eczema) is very common and affects around 20% of children at some time. It can start at any age but quite often starts in the first year of life. The hallmark features are of redness, dry and flaky skin. In small babies it commonly starts on the face, neck or scalp, but can spread to other areas over time. In toddlers and older children it often tends to affect the folds of the skin like the elbows, knees and ankles but can be more widespread and cover large areas of skin. Some children get so called discoid or nummular eczema where there are small patches of extremely itchy and inflamed skin which can get sore and weepy. All eczema is very itchy and can disturb sleep in babies and children, and lead to a lot of scratching in the daytime.
What causes it?
In many cases, eczema has a genetic predisposition so it may be that other close relatives have also had eczema, or the associated conditions of hay fever or asthma. In the majority of cases, there are no other causes but occasionally there may be food allergy driving the eczema. Babies and children in whom food allergy is a factor in their eczema often have early onset and more severe skin changes. If allergy is suspected, assessment by a paediatric allergist may be recommended. Certain things in the environment may make eczema worse, for example soaps and bubble baths, woollen clothing and overheating, so care should be taken to avoid these.
How can it be treated?
The treatment of eczema relies on using two approaches simultaneously. Firstly, the barrier of the skin needs to be improved through the use of moisturising creams or ointments. These should be part of the child’s daily skincare routine. Secondly, an anti-inflammatory cream or ointment such as a topical steroid should be used to target the red, inflamed areas of skin. The type of steroid cream and the frequency of use will vary depending on the site and type of eczema but your dermatologist will be able to recommend an effective treatment which will settle the eczema down effectively and not cause any damage to your child’s skin.