About one in five children have the red, scaly and itchy skin rash known as eczema. The areas of skin involved can vary depending on age. Infants often have patches first appearing on the cheeks. Toddlers may have scratch marks on the outside of arms and legs, making the rash look uncomfortable and sore, whereas older children have the more typical dry areas of inside the elbow and knee joints. It can even affect the hands – coming up as small itchy and sensitive blisters.
Eczema can flare up – scratchy clothing, or abrasion in sandpits, getting overheated, dry skin, irritation from soaps, allergy to dust mites/pollens/animal fur and even viruses are common triggers.
Luckily it can be managed well in most children with some simple interventions. Try to avoid any triggers such as soap, keep the skin well moisturised and seek appropriate review with your GP to check if topical steroids will be of benefit.
Some good tips are:
- In infants (especially teething infants) avoid contact irritation around the mouth by applying a barrier cream prior to meals.
- Dress children in soft cotton t-shirt material, and avoid overheating.
- Avoid all soaps (use instead the non-soap cleansers or bath oils from a pharmacy).
- In severe itchy flares use wet dressings – the instructions for this can be found by Googling “Wet dressings RCH”.
- Greasy ointments work better (and sting less on application) compared to light lotions.
- Topical steroids (available on script from a GP) are effective and used intermittently to reduce the itch and inflammation. Stronger steroids should not be used on the face.
- Keep fingernails short and clean (eczema can get infected easily).
Two great website resources for further reading are the Dermnetnz website and the RCH (Melbourne) website.
Dr Cath Hester
These articles are not intended to replace a one-to-one relationship with a qualified health professional or as specific medical advice. They are intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from experience and research in the scientific literature. I encourage you to make your own health care decisions based upon a partnership with a qualified health care professional.