Eczema holds the title for the most common skin condition in adults and children alike. In fact, most people afflicted with eczema experience their first symptoms at a very young age. Research has shown that 65% of those with eczema had their first encounter with the condition before they turned one, and about 90% of them before the age of five.
While there is still no consensus on the exact cause of eczema, most dermatologists attribute the problem to genetic and environmental factors. Those with family histories of atopic dermatitis, asthma, allergies, and/or other inflammatory conditions are more likely to develop eczema early on. As patients get older, their eczema symptoms may go away completely, or they might experience occasional flare-ups triggered by environmental factors like allergies or dry skin.
Dealing with eczema in young children (sometimes called baby eczema) is often a matter of altering their environment to relieve itching, swelling, and discomfort. However, there are medical treatments available for eczema, too. These treatments are mostly the same for both children and adults with eczema, but because children have more sensitive skin and developing immune systems, treatment options and their effectiveness may vary. Here we will explore the various ways you can treat, prevent, and mitigate eczema in children and babies.
There is no cure for eczema as of yet, but there are multiple ways to treat eczema in children, all designed to reduce inflammation and itching. Some of these treatments are topical, meaning they are placed on the skin itself, while others are taken orally. The best treatment for eczema will depend on the individual and their unique scenario. Discussing these options with a pediatric dermatologist is crucial when finding the best treatment method for your child.
Some parents might be wary of the term “steroids,” but topical corticosteroids are a highly effective treatment for mild eczema in both children and adults. In fact, in 2011, medical researchers in Australia found that, when used properly, steroids left no long-term damage on the skin. Corticosteroids reduce skin inflammation by altering the behavior of white blood cells. There are, of course, limits for how frequently these topical treatments should be applied, and they should only be used on the affected areas of skin. Your pediatric dermatologist can guide you and prescribe your child the proper amount of corticosteroids to keep eczema inflammation at bay.
If corticosteroids aren’t effective or something prevents your child from using them, they aren’t the only topical eczema treatment out there. You may also consider non-steroid ointments and creams such as Elidel (pimecrolimus) or Eucrisa (crisaborole) to alleviate childhood eczema symptoms. These drugs are immunosuppressants and should only be used for children above the age of two.
Antihistamines are common over-the-counter medications (such as Zyrtec, Allegra, and Claritin) that reduce inflammation and itching. They are primarily used to mitigate allergic responses and sometimes make patients drowsy. There are also non-sedative antihistamines on the market that don’t cause sleepiness. Your dermatologist can recommend which brand, type, and dosage is right for your child.
While eczema is not an infection itself, it can lead to infection. Children who constantly itch or pick at their rashes may break the skin and allow an opening for bacteria to enter. If the skin becomes infected, your pediatric dermatologist may recommend topical or oral antibiotics. These can also be used to prevent potential infection if your child is at risk and the eczema is severe.
All of the above treatments are effective methods of subduing eczema symptoms, but there are also ways to mitigate childhood eczema by simply avoiding potential flare-up triggers. These triggers include dry skin, allergens, irritating clothing, friction, excessive heat, dehydration, and more. Knowing what factors cause flare-ups in your child’s eczema can help you make preventative lifestyle adjustments. For instance, you might apply moisturizer to your child’s skin on a daily basis; you may lower the temperature of their bath or shower; or, you might change up their wardrobe an get rid of any tight-fitting or scratchy clothes.
If your child starts showing signs of eczema, don’t panic. This condition is quite common, and the good news is, it’s highly treatable. Talk to your child’s dermatologist to find the right treatment for their eczema, as well as ways to prevent future flare-ups. At Premier Dermatology Partners, our experts can give you advice, resources, and treatment to help keep your child’s skin healthy and comfortable. To learn more about our team and all the services we provide, contact us.