If your baby is going to suffer from eczema, it usually appears before he is two years old and affects 15 to 20 per cent of children at some stage. It is an itchy and dry skin condition.
Eczema is also referred to as atopic eczema or dermatitis. Atopic means the tendency to develop conditions like eczema, asthma or hay fever. The skin becomes dry and itchy with red and cracked skin. Some children's skin can produce a fluid and bleed. In babies, the most affected areas are the face, neck, hands, elbows and backs of the knees. It occurs because the barrier of the skin does not work sufficiently. The child is then more susceptible to infections and allergies which will exacerbate the eczema.
The cause of eczema is unknown but it can run in families. Certainly such allergy related conditions such as eczema, hay fever and asthma are increasing but it is not known why.
When eczema occurs on the skin it is known as a flare-up. If your child has eczema then he may have red, itchy or blotchy skin a lot of the time but it worsens during flare-ups and treatment may be required.
Chemicals can trigger eczema. These chemicals irritating the skin can be found in things like washing powders, fabric softeners, shampoos or bubble bath liquid. It is better to use bath emollient rather than soaps and detergents and sometimes it is worth trying a different washing powder.
With babies, eczema can be particularly distressing because it is difficult to prevent them itching and scratching their delicate skin. Sleep can be disturbed and infections brought on by the scratching.
There are treatments available and vary according to the intensity of the eczema. Emollient lotion may be prescribed for example, if your child has a mild form of eczema. Sometimes this can be combined with a short course of low-strength steroid cream. Moisturising is very important to prevent the skin from becoming too dry. There are many types of creams, lotions and ointments that can be tried. Ask your doctor about the best course of treatment for your child as they sometimes advise against steroid creams depending on the severity of your child's eczema. If you do decide to use them it is important that the correct strength is used. Other treatments which are available to research are:
- Homoeopathy and complementary therapies
- Chinese herbs have been shown to help although they can affect the liver so always refer to your doctor before trying them
- Oral antihistamines
- Dry bandages
Parents often ask themselves if there are any other preventative measures they can take to avoid their baby getting eczema. Here are some suggested tips:
- Breastfeeding or at least four months may help to protect against eczema and other allergies
- Not using cow's milk - but you must speak to your doctor before cutting this out
- Ask your doctor about possible foods you should try avoiding whilst your are breastfeeding
- There is some evidence that taking probiotics (yoghurts or supplements) during pregnancy can help
Other things to consider which may help:
- Have wooden or laminate floors instead of carpets which attract dust mites and cause allergic reactions
- Cotton clothing may help. Woollen and synthetic fibres can aggravate eczema
- Keep a diary of what triggers your child's eczema
- Overheating can make eczema more severe, so keep bedding and clothing light. Layering is good so you can adjust baby's temperature easily
- Keep your baby's nails short to help prevent itching and scratching
By the time your child is a teenager, if he has eczema it will have gone. It is not curable but it is controllable with the appropriate treatment.
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Eirian Hallinan, a mom, wife and well accomplished writer whom has authored numerous articles for outstanding online sites like BabyCareJournals.com. Through her life experiences and studies, she has attained a solid knowledge in using gripe medicine to treat colic and gas in babies.
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