Eczema or atopic dermatitis is an inflammatory skin condition that, although not contagious, causes a lot of discomfort to sufferers. It’s extremely itchy and is aggravated by scratching. Therefore it can be very distressful for parents whose children or babies suffer from it.
Contrary to common belief, eczema is the result of a barrier defect of the skin and is seldom caused by allergies, although certain irritants play a role and can exacerbate the condition. As a result of this defect, fluid in the skin evaporates and allows irritants to enter. Eczema is commonly found in skin folds such as the creases of elbows, armpits, knees and ankles, but does not affect the nappy area. It is also not present of the bridge of the nose which is protected by sebaceous glands that produce oil.
The following factors can aggravate the severity of the condition:
- Hot and humid or dry and cold weather
- Irritants e.g. washing powder or softeners
- Pollen and pets
- Dust and sand
- Stress and anxiety
- Hot baths
- Not drying and moisturising immediately after baths (this is often difficult with toddlers)
- Home heating
- Rough clothing (seams, labels, wool)
- Overdressing which causes sweating
To treat atopic dermatitis, it is essential to supplement and support the skin’s defective barrier.
- Use an effective emollient to keep the skin hydrated.
- Prevent skin damage and be especially careful of sun damage. Use a special sun block that will not aggravate the condition.
- Aqueous cream is not suitable as it is water based and therefore evaporates.
- Do not shy away from using cortisone creams (on prescription). Ask your doctor to explain the dosage and proper application. It is important to suppress inflammation of the area.
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