Itchy, flaky, dry skin: it’s uncomfortable and painful, and something no one wants to watch their child experience. Often, this is caused by a condition called atopic dermatitis, more commonly known as eczema. We don’t know what causes eczema, but we have figured out trends in the disease and ways to manage it.
Eczema tends to run in families, so you may have more than one little one with this condition, or you may experience eczema yourself! Eczema can present in many different types of rashes, but for the most part it will look red and scaly. Babies tend to get it on their cheeks and scalp, as well as their arms and legs. Older children are usually affected on the sides of the neck, on their elbows and the backs of the knees.
Try to avoid scratching! Oftentimes eczema is itchy. Scratching can make the skin bleed and increase the chance of your child developing a skin infection.
What do you do if you think your child has eczema?
A pediatrician will usually be able to tell you if this is eczema or something else without the need of a dermatologist. Sometimes eczema can be severe or have an abnormal appearance. In that case, the pediatrician may advise you to see a dermatologist. (A lot of this can be handled via photos and phone calls, however.) It’s worth getting a professional’s opinion to make the diagnosis because there are steps you can take to make your child more comfortable and help it go away.
Usually, moisturizing is the name of the game. You’ll want a thick cream. Nothing fancy, no fragrances, and something with the least amount of chemicals. My top choice right now is Cerave, which you can buy in your local drug store. Others highly recommend Aquaphor. Short baths! And after a short bath, while the skin is still slightly damp, slather that cream on to lock in the moisture. Be diligent about moisturizing, even if it looks like it’s getting better! This will prevent future breakouts of eczema. You should also try to avoid synthetic fabrics like wool or polyester.
If the skin is still itchy after these steps, your doctor may prescribe a steroid cream for you to apply to the affected areas of your child’s skin. These creams are not for everyday use, and you should only use them if your doctor tells you to. Sometimes, your doctor may link the eczema to food sensitivities and will trial an alteration of your child’s diet or your diet if you are breastfeeding.
It’s very common for children with eczema to experience seasonal allergies and/or asthma. All of these things are usually completely manageable and kids grow out of in time. Parents usually suffer over these things more than the kids do. We promise.