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Eczema in Children


What is eczema in children?

Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is an itchy, red skin rash. It is common in children between the ages of 2 months and 5 years. Your child is more likely to have eczema if he also has asthma or allergies. Flare-ups can happen anytime of year, but are more common in winter. Your child could have flare-ups for the rest of his life.

What are the signs and symptoms of eczema in children?

Your child may have patches of dry, red, itchy skin. He may also have bumps or blisters that crust over or ooze clear fluid. He may have areas of his skin that are thick, scaly, or hard and leather-like. He may also be irritable and have difficulty sleeping because of itching.

What triggers eczema in children?

Anything that increases dryness or makes your child want to scratch is a trigger. Triggers can cause eczema to flare up. The following are common triggers:

  • Some soaps, shampoos, and detergents may bother your child's skin. Ask your child's healthcare provider what kinds of mild cleansers to use.
  • Pet dander and other allergens , such as dust mites, can make your child's symptoms worse. Pollen, mold, and cigarette smoke may also irritate his skin.
  • Frequent baths or showers can lead to dry, itchy skin.

How is eczema in children diagnosed?

A healthcare provider will examine your child. Tell him if your child or family members have a history of dry skin, asthma, or allergies. Tell him if you know things that trigger your child's rash. There are no tests to diagnose eczema. Your child's healthcare provider may test your child for allergies to find out if they trigger symptoms.

How is eczema in children treated?

There is no cure for eczema. The goal of treatment is to reduce your child's itching and pain and add moisture to his skin. His symptoms should improve after 3 weeks of treatment. Your child may need any of the following:

  • Medicines , such as immunosuppressants, help reduce itching, redness, pain, and swelling. They may be given as a cream or pill. He may also be given antihistamines to reduce itching, or antibiotics if he has a skin infection.
  • Phototherapy , or ultraviolet light, may help heal your child's skin. It is also called light therapy.

How can I manage my child's eczema?

  • Reduce scratching. Your child's symptoms get worse when he scratches. Trim his fingernails short so he does not tear his skin when he scratches. Put cotton gloves or mittens on his hands while he sleeps.
  • Keep your child's skin moist. Rub lotion, cream, or ointment into your child's skin. Do this right after a bath or shower when his skin is still damp. Ask your child's healthcare provider what to use and how often to use it. Do not use lotion that contains alcohol because it can dry your child's skin.
  • Use moist bandages as directed. This helps moisture sink into your child's skin. It may also prevent your child from scratching.
  • Let your child take baths or showers for 10 minutes or less. Use mild bar soap. Teach him how to gently pat his skin dry.
  • Choose cotton clothes. Dress your child in loose-fitting clothes made from cotton or cotton blends. Avoid wool.
  • Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air in your home.
  • Use mild soap and detergent. Ask your child's healthcare provider which mild soaps, detergents, and shampoos are best for your child. Do not use fabric softener.
  • Ask your healthcare provider about allergy testing if your child's eczema is hard to control. Allergy testing can help to identify allergens that irritate your child's skin. Your child's healthcare provider can give you suggestions about how to reduce your child's exposure to these allergens.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your child develops a fever or has red streaks going up his arm or leg.
  • Your child's rash gets more swollen, red, or warm.

When should I contact my child's healthcare provider?

  • Most of your child's skin is red, swollen, painful, and covered with scales.
  • Your child's rash develops bloody, painful crusts.
  • Your child's skin blisters and oozes white or yellow pus.
  • Your child often wakes up at night because his skin is itchy.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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