Eczema In Infants

This is a great help to parents just beginning to deal with eczema in their infants.

Approximately 10% of children under five are affected by eczema - and 90% of all eczema cases begin in children under five. Doctors do not know what causes eczema. They do know that eczema occurs most frequently in children with a family history of allergies. For many parents, the diagnosis is not initially disturbing. There is often a sense that surely this will pass quickly once the doctor gives medication to cure it. Unfortunately, there is no cure for eczema. Medications are given to deal with the symptoms - not to cure the condition. Some children will outgrow their eczema while still toddlers; others will outgrow it later and some few will continue to deal with the condition into adulthood. So, parents need to recognize that a diagnosis of eczema means a diligent maintenance regimen will become a part of their daily lives.

Eczema has often been called the "itch that rashes" because it starts with the itch. Eczema skin is very itchy. It is not likely that a child will simply not scratch; therefore much of eczema treatment is focused on lessening the itch. As a child scratches, a rash develops. Severe scratching can result in bacteria being introduced into the skin and systemic infection developing. Often doctors must treat the skin infection before the skin eruptions can be brought under control. Eczema can be thought of as very sensitive skin. The skin of a person with eczema has a defect that prevents the skin from staying moist. The dryness then creates a fragile skin that itches and is easily damaged. The skin of an eczema suffer is also easily irritated by contact with clothing, bedclothes and pets. In order for the rash to get better, the child must stop scratching; therefore the first step in eczema treatment is to reduce itchiness.

Treatment of eczema combines aggressive moisturizing and topical anti-inflammatory medications. A child in eczema flare-up should be bathed daily (twice a day if possible) in lukewarm water (85 degrees). Do not bathe your child in hot, or even very warm water. Hot water causes skin to release histamines that make the skin red and itchy. The bath does not need to be very long. Children with a severe rash may find the water stings or burns. If so, a half a cup of table salt may be added to a full tub of water. Avoid using soap if possible and do not scrub skin with washcloth. If soap is needed, use mild, moisturizing, unscented soap.



Then, immediately after taking the child from the bath, pat gently with a towel but leave the skin damp. Within three minutes, the moisturizer needs to be applied heavily. For serious rash, moisturizing with Aquaphor or Vaseline petroleum jelly is best. For moderate rash, a thick cream, such as Eucerine, will be sufficient. For skin without visible rash, you can use a good quality moisturizing liquid. Avoid products that contain fragrance. Apply anti-inflammatory prescription medication only to areas in active flare-up. (The doctor should give detailed instructions on when and how often to apply the anti-inflammatory). When itching breaks skin, application of antibiotic ointment is a necessary precaution against infection. If infection occurs, prescription oral antibiotic may be necessary.

Children in severe flare-up may benefit from a soaking wrap. Soak cotton cloths in a basin of tepid water mixed with table salt. Cotton diapers work well as wraps. Put down some kind of protective plastic padding in the child's bed. Have the child sit up in bed and place a moist (not drippy) cloth over the back and shoulders, and then have the child lay down. Take a separate moist cloth and wrap each arm and leg"¦covering fingers and toes. Cover the whole body. Cover the cloths with plastic padding to avoid quick drying. (Do not put plastic over the child's face). Cover the child with a blanket. Let the child stay in the wrap for 30 minutes (if child falls asleep, the wrap may stay in place until the child awakes.) Then, remove wraps and apply moisturizer heavily over the entire body.

Because children with eczema have such sensitive skin, certain guidelines should help prevent flair-ups. Dress children in loose fitting, 100% cotton clothes. Remove tags that can scratch the skin. Bedding should be 100% cotton and laundered frequently in gentle unscented laundry soap. If your child is young enough to be carried, parents should not wear wool or other scratchy fabrics. Generally avoid highly acidic foods like citrus fruits or juices, tomatoes or spicy foods when a child is in flare-up. Keep house temperature cool. Heat and sweating can trigger a flair-up. In winter, using a humidifier should help prevent the air from becoming too dry. Keep the child's fingernails short and scrupulously clean to avoid infection. Emotional stress can worsen eczema rash, so it is important that parents not convey a negative attitude toward the child when treating this frustrating (and often sleep depriving) condition. Skin should be lubricated three times a day, using Aquafor or Vaseline as a moisturizer and applying lavishly.

If child seems to be itching in a particular spot, try applying a cold wet washcloth to the area to dampen the skin, then apply moisturizer. The doctor may recommend an antihistamine to be taken at bedtime to reduce itching and help the child to sleep.

Sometimes a flare-up can occur even when the most diligent moisturizing schedule has been kept. A flare-up is not a parenting failure. Eczema is an unpredictable and frustrating condition. If a serious flare-up occurs, call the doctor. He may prescribe different anti-inflammatory or different anti-itch procedures. It is also wise for a child in flare-up to be watched for infection. Symptoms of infection include weeping or crusted skin or small pus bumps.

Children with eczema are not contagious and not sick. Parents should be careful to avoid thinking of the child as fragile or ill. Although eczema can be frustrating for parent and extremely uncomfortable for the child, it is a treatable condition. Since most children do outgrow eczema, the key is to outlast it by never flagging in diligent skin care. You can win the battle with eczema and help your baby to have the healthy glowing skin babies are known for.

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