Eczema is frustrating at the best of times, and eczema in children is especially difficult as they don't understand why they are experiencing such irritating symptoms. There are no proven cures but there are plenty of tricks you can try to soothe the itchy, sore skin.
What is childhood eczema?
Eczema is a skin condition which, broadly speaking, causes sufferers to have dry, red and itchy skin.
The exact cause of eczema is unknown but research shows that it's the skins reaction to external factors. Allergens in the environment trigger the immune system and cells over react, causing the skin to flare up.
Eczema will generally appear in the first five years of a child's life if they are susceptible to it.
Atopic eczema is heredity so if someone in your family has eczema, asthma or a food allergy, that could contribute to your child developing the skin condition. It is not contagious so your child can't catch it from anyone else.
Childhood eczema symptoms
Eczema is most likely to effect a baby's facial area covering the cheeks and forehead. At this stage it may appear red and weep fluid. Babies nappy areas tend to be more moist which prevents them from drying out and being effecting by the condition.
As your baby begins crawling they might develop eczema on the patches of skin that rub on floor as they toddle about. It's important to be careful about letting those sore patches of skin become irritated when your baby is crawling as the skin could become infected if continuously broken.
At this age your child's eczema may resemble symptoms more typically associated with the skin condition like dry patches in creases of skin such as elbows and the backs of knees or on hands and feet. Your toddler's skin may start to look dry and scaly at this stage and become thick with deeper lines, this is called lichenification.
From this point the most common areas of eczema are dryness on the hands, feet, creases and scalp and this is like to carry on into adulthood.
Causes of eczema in children
The main triggers for eczema particularly in children are:
- Already dry skin, patches of drool left un-wiped on your babies face can cause dry skin which can become eczema
- Irritants such as scratchy, synthetic materials
- Heat and sweating
- Allergens such as pollen or dust
- Cold, harsh weather
- Perfumed products
How to treat eczema in children
Reassess their diet
There is no definite cure for eczema, but we know it can be triggered by allergens which can often be in your child's food. Changing their diet can sometimes help to manage their eczema, so we spoke to Yvonne Wake BSc MSc RPHNutr. DryNites® ConfidentNites® Nutritionist who told us exclusively her theory that altering your child's diet could have a positive impact on their eczema.
'I would start by re-designing your child's total intake. So remove all processed food from the diet, as well as all heavy sugar foods (so cakes, biscuits, sweets, puddings) and also keep animal protein to a minimal (but do not remove dairy as children need the calcium). Go easy on the cheese, but yogurt and milk must be kept in the diet. Think vegetables, fruit, whole foods, and plenty of water. This has all shown to be helpful when trying to eliminate the wrong foods. Once these foods have been exchanged there should be a marked difference, if not, there may be a reason for using a prescribed cream from the GP, but try to avoid so that the body can fight itself.'
Keep your babies skin moisturised
Moisturiser is measured on the amount of water to oil ratio it contains, if your baby has eczema, you will need to use a really oily moisturiser or an ointment. Ointment has a higher oil content and therefore is better at locking in moisture. You should apply this within three minutes of bathing to ensure their skin absorbs it fully, twice a day.
Stop them scratching
While your child is a baby, use anti-scratch mittens on them to prevent them from scratching themselves in their sleep. This can be harder to enforce in toddlers so keeping their nails short is really important.
Buy them loose fitting clothes
Tight clothing can lead to some of the classic triggers of eczema. Tight, layered clothing can cause your child to overheat and sweat where there skin may start to rub and become irritated. Tight waistbands can lead to babies itching or pulling at their clothing which can also lead to irritated skin, so loose, breathable cotton clothing is best.
Try bentonite clay
GoodtoKnow mum Alishah tries to use only natural products for her baby and recommends adding bentonite clay to the bath when washing your child. She told us: 'We tried many things but what works best is bentonite clay, we would add it to the bath which my daughter loves as its like a mud bath.'
Bentonite clay is a 100% natural powder known for its healing qualities and ability to draw out toxins from the body. Creating a 'mud bath' for your child can be soothing on their skin and fun too.