SIGNS OF ECZEMA IN CHILDREN
Symptoms of Eczema in Kids
Keep in mind, eczema is a real head (and body) scratcher. It’s not a one-symptom-fits-all condition, and your child’s brand of eczema might look a little different from every other kid in the sandbox. The general symptoms include red, itchy skin and rashes, which can ooze or be very dry. As for where it pops up? That depends on your baby’s birthday. Do not let anyone tell you they will grow out of it. They will not!
Infants (up to 6 months)
CONGENITAL DERMITIS : Yup, it starts young. Eczema can occur in infants as little as two or three months old. Often making an appearance as a rash that causes dry, scaly, itchy skin, it can bubble, ooze, and weep fluid. It commonly appears on the scalp and face, particularly the cheeks, and potentially other areas of the body.
Babies (6 to 12 months)
For this age group, eczema usually shows up as a rash with itchy, scaly patches on the elbows and knees. Babies may rub against things like bedding or carpeting to try to scratch the itch. They also may have trouble sleeping thanks to the chronic itch. If the skin becomes infected (which it may, due to constant scratching), it may form a yellow crust or very small pus-filled bumps.
Toddlers/Young Children (2 to 5 years)
Common spots for eczema to crop up include the creases of the elbows and knees, or on the wrists, ankles, or hands. It may also appear on the skin around the mouth or on the eyelids. Skin may start to look dry and scaly or become thick with deeper lines.
Children (5 and up)
The folds of the elbows and/or knees are the most common areas for eczema. It can also pop up on a child’s hands, behind the ears, or on the feet or scalp.
Causes of Childhood Eczema
Like some of life’s greatest mysteries, the exact reason kids get eczema remains unknown. However, doctors believe genetics are a main suspect. Approximately 70% of people with eczema have a family history of atopic diseases (eczema, asthma, hay fever, and food allergies, also known as the allergic march).
Basically, if you or your partner have one of these conditions, your child’s chances of developing eczema just jumped two to three times higher. And if both of you have it, your tot’s risk increases three to five times (sorry, we’re just the messenger). But don’t panic, even if both parents have eczema, it’s still not a guarantee that your child will get it, too.
Research also shows that some people with eczema have a mutation in the gene responsible for creating filaggrin, a protein that keeps the top layer of skin strong. This mutation means the skin’s surface is weak, so moisture has easy access out and bacteria and viruses have easy access in. This is often the reason people with eczema tend to have very dry and infection-prone skin. Kids with this gene mutation may have earlier onset eczema, and their condition may be more severe and persistent.
What Triggers Eczema in Kids?
The causes of this chronic condition may still be up for grabs, but its triggers—the stuff that sets it off—are well-known. When your child comes in contact with one of these triggers, her over-reactive immune system (the hallmark of anyone with eczema), responds by causing inflammation in the body. Keep in mind, not every child who has eczema has the same triggers, and it can take some detective work on your part to figure out which ones set her off. But once you do, it makes it much easier to prevent flareups. You must get rid of the triggers. These are some of the culprits to watch out for.
- Dry skin: The drier your child’s skin, the more it will itch and make existing eczema worse—particularly your kid’s prone to scratching. You can tell if the skin is dry by touching it, or if it looks scaly or ashy, or has areas of cracked or bleeding skin.
- Saliva: It’s a fact: Babies drool. Also a fact: That saliva can cause irritation, redness, or swelling on the areas it touches, like your baby’s cheeks, chin, or neck.
- Sweat: Although kids don’t sweat as much as adults, it’s still worth noting that people with eczema tend to have higher glucose levels in their sweat, which promotes itching.
- Clothing: Certain materials, like wool or polyester, can irritate your child’s skin and worsen eczema symptoms. Pay attention to whether your tot’s eczema flares occur after wearing specific items or if the itchiness occurs in places where seams or tags touch the skin.
- Allergens: Substances that commonly trigger an allergic reaction (pollen, dust mites, pet dander, and mold) can also spark or worsen eczema symptoms, along with many food allergies.
- Skin irritants: Common products like soap, body wash, shampoo, laundry detergents, fabric softeners, baby powder, or wipes can irritate your child’s skin and cause burning, itching, or redness. Other irritants include metals, especially nickel (commonly used for earring backings), fragrances, cigarette smoke, and formaldehyde, which is found in things like disinfectants, glues, and adhesives.
How to Fight Flares
By knowing your child’s triggers and making a few lifestyle tweaks, you can help reduce the odds of a flare (although sometimes flares occur for unknown reasons). If anyone recommends that your child take Benadryl, RUN!
Moisturizing your baby’s skin is key to keeping eczema symptoms at bay. Ointment and cream formulas are best because they contain a higher concentration of oil and minimal water content. In addition, releasing moisture into the air by way of a humidifier can help prevent dry skin, especially during the winter.
Choose Clothes Wisely
Nix the wool onesies: Dress your child in loose-fitting clothes made from 100% cotton and be sure to remove all tags. Machine-wash clothing using fragrance-free, dye-free laundry detergent. If you add fabric softener, make sure it’s also fragrance-free.
Wipe Away Wetness
Gently pat saliva from your baby’s skin with a soft cloth (don’t rub, as this can trigger eczema). Talk to your pediatrician about applying a thin layer of petroleum jelly to skin that saliva often touches to keep it from drying out.
Control Dust Mites
You’d need magical powers to completely eliminate dust mites from your home, but you can help control them by cleaning your child’s room regularly, placing dust mite covers on the pillow and mattress, washing bedding in hot water weekly, and removing carpets and rugs from her room.
Police Pollen Levels
If your child’s eczema fires up when pollen or mold counts are high, keep doors and windows shut and use air-conditioning when possible. You’ll also want to limit time outside when the count is high and steer clear of the lawn for about two hours after it’s been mowed (mowing can kick up all kinds of irritants).
Monitor Pet Dander
If your family has a furry member, be mindful of pet dander: The tiny particles of skin that animals shed are a common allergen that can trigger or worsen eczema symptoms. Vacuum regularly, give your fuzzy buddy frequent baths, and try to make your child’s bedroom an animal-free zone.
On hot days, make sure your tot takes frequent shady breaks. Avoid too many covers at night and be sure to protect sensitive skin during the day by using the hoods on strollers and carriages.
Living With Childhood Eczema
No, it’s not cancer. But it could be MS one day. Or any number of challenging conditions that threaten a child’s quality of life—or, let’s face it, life itself. But the daily discomfort brought on by eczema is enough to drive even the saintliest youngster among us to borderline insanity. Mental health conditions are associated with untreated eczema.
Older children are able to verbalize what’s bothering them, but with babies and toddlers, you need to pay special attention to body language and other physical cues that they are in pain or uncomfortable. Take any actions of scratching or grabbing at their skin seriously and talk with your pediatrician if you see telltale signs of redness. There may not be a cure, but with so many effective ways to manage eczema, there is no reason it should slow your child down.
We are in this Together!
-People Start to Heal The Moment They Are Heard-
Health and Wellness Associates
Dr Patricia Carrothers
REVIEWED BY DR “J” JARANSON