Eczema is a very common ailment that affects children early in life. If your family has a history of hay fever and asthma, your child is more likely to develop eczema.
Eczema describes a red, itchy rash that begins to develop in 1 out of 10 children within the first few months of their lives. Approximately half of these children will develop hay fever or asthma as they grow older. For most children, however, the condition usually fades. One of the main causes of eczema is atopic dermatitis, which refers to skin irritations caused by a sensitivity to allergens such as pollen and animal dander.
While some people deal with eczema flare-ups into adulthood, the condition can be worse in children because it is much more difficult to prevent them from scratching. This worsens eczema patches by causing the skin to thicken and darken and, in some cases, can lead to infection. The condition is not contagious, however, so you don't need to worry about passing it on to other children.
If you suspect your child may have eczema, see your doctor and provide a complete family medical history to rule out other skin conditions such as psoriasis. Your doctor may refer you to an allergist to rule out the possibility of an isolated allergic reaction. Once your doctor makes a diagnosis of eczema, keep in mind that eczema rashes are often triggered or made worse by exposure to heat and irritating materials such as coarse wool and harsh detergents.
Keep your child cool (stick with lukewarm baths), out of the sun, and avoid any products that include scents or perfumes. Make sure that you don't scrub the skin too hard and apply cooling compresses or hydrocortisone cream to itchy patches. Try to keep your child's fingernails short to minimize the possibility of harsh scratching.
In some cases, it's possible that children with eczema will develop a skin infection due to scratching. If eczema patches become red and warm and develop pus-filled bumps or fever blisters, consult your doctor immediately.