About Eczema & Dry Skin

About Eczema & Dry Skin

Eczema (sometimes called dermatitis) is a non-contagious dry skin condition. It can vary greatly from sufferer to sufferer, and symptoms can range from dry patches, scaly skin and itching, to weeping sores, bleeding and crusting. There is no cure for eczema, but the condition can be managed.

Eczema affects 10% - 20% of children in the US, and it is more prevalent amongst families with a history of asthma, eczema and hayfever (or the atopic triad). It is also more common in Asian, black African and black Caribbean children.

While it is most commonly experienced by children, eczema can affect anyone, and those who have symptoms as a child are more likely to have eczema as an adult.

80% of atopic eczema starts from before the age of 5 and 31.6 million children and adults every year in the US suffer from this condition.

Read our 15 Tips for Managing Your Child's Eczema Day to Day.

When to look out for eczema?

Eczema commonly develops when babies are 8-16 weeks old and typically presents as red, itchy and sore patches in the creases of the skin. Eczema is different from cradle cap, which will appear on babies' head and have a more yellowish color and greasy scaly patches.

Another common time for babies to experience eczema is when they begin teething. As the teeth start to push through, babies tend to dribble more, which can, in turn, irritate the skin around the mouth and chin and cause eczema.

Other times to look out for symptoms is when your child starts to eat new foods or spends time in new environments. Pollen, animals, household chemicals, heat and new foods could all be possible triggers of eczema. Stress can make eczema worse, so starting a new school or being anxious about something may cause a flare-up in the condition.

How eczema is diagnosed?

If you think your baby or child has eczema, always seek medical advice in the first instance. Either visit your GP or talk to your healthcare professional. They will discuss the symptoms with you and do a visual examination of your child’s skin. Once you have established that your child does have eczema, then you may like to research the various methods available for alleviating their symptoms.

You may like to keep a simple diary of the severity of your childs symptoms to see if you can identify anything that might be triggering their eczema. Triggers might include things they have eaten and things they have come into contact with such as pollen, pets and other possible contact allergens. Don't make any drastic changes to your childs diet without discussing with a healthcare professional though as they may lose out on vital nutrients.

About your child's skin

Skin performs a number of very important functions, such as regulating body temperature, helping synthesize vitamin D from UV action, sensing heat and cold, it waterproofs you and, vitally, it forms a protecting barrier against germs, infection and irritation.

Your skin is constantly changing, and regenerates itself roughly every 27 days (regenerating faster when you are younger, and slowing down as you get older).

If your child has eczema, they may not be producing the same amount of fats and oils needed to lubricate the skin, retain water and keep the skin plump. This is when gaps may appear between the skin cells, allowing germs, bacteria and allergens to get through and cause the irritation.

Irritation is further exacerbated by using harsh chemicals on the skin, such as unkind toiletry products. These can strip the skin of its natural oils and cause further aggravation to already sensitive skin.

Does your child's eczema make you feel helpless?

No parent wants to see their son or daughter suffer. Eczema in babies and children can be distressing for the whole family:

  • Bathtime is upsetting – your child's skin often reacts to the water and becomes even more sore afterwards with towel-drying
  • Eczema in toddlers can make it impossible to get them dressed, as they're wiggling and sticky from thick, traditional eczema treatment creams
  • Itchy skin makes it difficult for your child to fall asleep at night and the resulting sleep deprivation impacts on the whole family
  • Looking after your child's eczema is a daily mission and you worry about using harsh steroid creams on their delicate skin.