Understanding Eczema In Babies And Toddlers

Eczema is a relatively common paediatric skin condition that is most likely to appear in the first couple of years of your child's life. Some babies develop the condition soon after birth, and eczema is a chronic condition that's thought to occur when the skin's natural barrier gets overly dry and doesn't function well. The exact cause of eczema is not fully understood, but children with a close relative who has food allergies, hay fever, asthma or eczema are at an increased risk of developing this condition.

Eczema sufferers experience periods of remission and flare-ups of their symptoms, and although it can be difficult to identify a trigger for flare-ups in babies and toddlers, environmental irritants, cosmetic products, household cleaners and certain foods can cause skin irritation. So, it's worth keeping a diary of your child's symptoms and exposure to common irritants, such as pet dander, fragranced washing powder, shampoo, dairy products and mould, to try and identify what could be causing their eczema to flare-up.

Symptoms Of Eczema

Eczema causes patches of dry skin to appear anywhere on the body, and these patches often appear red and inflamed. The dry patches don't tend to look like a rash, and in young children, it's common for patches of eczema to develop behind the ears and in the creases of the elbows, knees and neck. Eczema can be itchy, and your child may scratch their skin or rub affected areas along furniture in a bid to get some relief from the itching. If eczema is bothering your child, they may also be irritable and their sleep may be disturbed.

Diagnosis And Treatment Approach

Your doctor can diagnose eczema by taking details of your child's symptoms and examining their skin. There's usually no need for any type of testing, but if your doctor is concerned a fungal infection could be present, which can have a similar appearance to eczema, they will have a skin cell sample analysed. Additionally, if your child's eczema seems to be exacerbated when they consume certain foods, such as eggs, nuts, soy or dairy, they may be referred to an allergy clinic for food allergy testing.

Children often grow out of eczema by the time they reach adolescence, so the treatment of eczema in young children tends to focus on reducing flare-ups and keeping them comfortable. Your doctor may prescribe a steroid cream for short-term use, which can be an effective way of getting a flare-up under control and reducing inflammation and itching. They'll also be given an emollient cream and soothing bath solution to prevent their skin from drying out, which can cause irritation.

During flare-ups, you can soothe itchy skin by giving your child a cool bath and dabbing their skin dry with a soft towel before applying moisturiser. Keeping their skin cool can reduce itching, so dress them in breathable fabrics, keep their bedroom at a comfortable temperature and use lightweight, breathable bedding.

If you think your child could have eczema, it's important to get a professional diagnosis in case there's a serious underlying condition causing their symptoms, such as a food allergy. Schedule an appointment with your local medical centre, and if you've kept a log of your child's symptoms, take this to the appointment with you.