Eczema, also called atopic dermatitis, is a common childhood skin condition that affects over 30 million people in the United States. Within that, one out of every 10 children will develop eczema. Yet even so, many people still don’t know the basics of this condition. The following are 10 things you might not know about eczema:
1. Most people are diagnosed with eczema when they are babies, or as young children under the age of 5. However, eczema can develop later. It is most common in children with a family history of asthma or hay fever. Children with eczema may also develop these conditions later.
2. Eczema symptoms are more severe in early childhood and lessen as the child grows into adolescence and adulthood. In many children, symptoms disappear around the age of 6 years old.
3. Eczema is not considered an allergy, although allergies can trigger symptoms. Other common triggers for eczema include soaps, detergents, perfumes, dry air, dust mites, sweaty skin and scratchy fabrics.
4. The exact cause of eczema is unknown, however, it is considered to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. If both parents have eczema, there is a high chance that a child will also have eczema. Food allergies may also contribute to eczema. Some common food products that have been associated with the skin condition include dairy and wheat products, eggs, nuts and seafood.
5. Eczema can appear anywhere on the body. However, in children the rash most commonly appears on the hands, feet, ankles, wrists and inside the bend behind the knees or on the elbows.
6. The itch-scratch cycle refers to the initial, intense itchiness of the rash, followed by scratching. The scratching causes irritation, redness, swelling and more itching.
7. There is no cure for eczema. However, daily skin care is very important to managing and controlling symptoms. Bathing in warm (not hot) water, and using rich moisturizers or ointments can help to reduce symptoms and keep your child more comfortable.
8. Diet changes may help a small percentage of children. While food allergies or sensitivities may be a contributing cause to eczema flare-ups in some children, it is often** not** the only trigger. Therefore, changing your child’s diet might help, but probably won't eliminate the eczema altogether. For young children, you should talk to your doctor about diet changes to make sure your child is receiving the proper daily nutrients.
9. Eczema is not a life-threatening disease, although it can cause quality of life problems. Itching can result in poor sleep patterns. Severe flares can result in a child missing school or social situations. In some households, the cost of doctor’s visits and medication can cause financial difficulties.
10. There are, however,** over-the-counter medications you can use to treat eczema.** If the rash, itchiness and discomfort do not improve, it is important to talk with your child’s doctor about different treatments. Your doctor can also work with you in identifying triggers and potential allergens.
_For more information on eczema in children: _
Children & Eczema: National Eczema Society
Eczema: How to Help Your Child Avoid the Itch: HealthyChildren.org