Just what are some of the causes and cures for eczema?
WORDS ANGEL DREWGUS
While it is common childhood condition, do you know just what causes eczema and what can be done to ease your child’s discomfort? Motherhood speaks to the experts.
Causes and Triggers
Children with AD have an impaired skin barrier. According to Dr Teo Wan Lin, specialist in dermatology and consultant, Raffles Skin & Aesthetic, she says that research so far has shown that genes play a role. It tends to run in families, and children with AD usually have family members who have eczema, asthma, or allergic rhinitis. Children are more likely to develop AD if one or both parents have AD, asthma, or hay fever.
Environmental changes like excessively warm or cold weather, dust, carpets, pets, stress, use of strong soaps can all trigger off flares of eczema. Foods do not cause eczema. However, some studies suggest that food allergies can worsen eczema. It is important to speak about this with your child’s dermatologist, advises Dr Teo. Children need a well-balanced diet for normal development.
Treatments and Cure
Eczema tends to get better as the child grows older. However, about half will have it as an adult. Treatment is very important as it can prevent eczema from getting worse, or control and relieve the symptoms. In particular, the itch and discomfort can affect the child’s concentration in school. In some cases, it can also affect physical activities, be it in school or elsewhere, as well as the quality of sleep.
When giving your child a bath, it is best to go “soap-free” during a flare-up, as sodium lauryl sulphate may irritate the skin and worsen flare-ups. Liquid cleansers or bath oils are usually preferable to bar soaps, advises Dr Rachael Teo, specialist in dermatology and consultant, Raffles Skin & Aesthetic.
Avoid anything that scrapes the skin such as loofahs or washcloths and use lukewarm rather than hot water. After bathing, gently pat the skin dry with a smooth towel and apply moisturisers while skin is still damp.
The Importance of Moisturisers
Moisturisers are important in managing eczema as they restore the barrier function of the skin. You may need to try a few before finding one that works for you. In general, cream or ointment-based (rather than lotion) moisturisers work better for patients with eczema as their skin tends to be dry. They should be used regularly, several times a day and in sufficient quantities, advises Dr Rachel Teo. Choose a moisturiser that is free from perfumes or fragrances. Moisturisers that contain ceramides may improve eczema and itchiness better than regular moisturisers.
Whether you will need to use steroid ointment will depend on the severity and extent of eczema in the child. Steroids should always be used under the instruction and supervision of a doctor or dermatologist. Apart from steroid-based ointments, calcineurin inhibitors (tacrolimus, pimecrolimus ointment/cream) are also available for treatment of eczema. In infective flare-ups, oral antibiotics may be needed as well.
Eczema does improve over time for most children, but it can be very frustrating for the minority of children whose eczema does not improve. It is important to remember to have a positive attitude towards managing it to help your child cope with their eczema. However, if you have reached the point of realising that your child is going to have to live with eczema, develop a positive approach to tackling the condition and not let it take over their life.