HealthZone Medical: Eczema

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What is Eczema?

  • Eczema is a common condition where the skin gets dry, itchy, red and inflamed.
  • About 1 out of every 10 children will develop eczema.
  • Most cases develop under age 5.
  • Half of children who currently have eczema are likely to have outgrown eczema by the time they are teenagers.

Causes

  • The cause is not known but there is an increase in the water loss from the skin in people with eczema à dry skin.
  • Eczema is not an allergy but allergies such as pet fur, house dust mites and detergents can trigger it.
  • Children who get eczema often have family members with hay fever, asthma or other allergies. They are also more likely to have these conditions themselves.
  • Some experts think these children may be genetically inclined to get eczema, which means characteristics have been passed on from parents through genes that make a child more likely to get it.

Symptoms of Eczema

  • The skin usually feels dry.
  • Some areas of the skin become red and inflamed, most commonly the skin creases. The face is commonly affected in babies with eczema.
  • Dry skin is itchy and scratching it a lot may cause patches of thickened skin.
  • The skin can also become infected as a result of scratching.  Signs of infection include painful red bumps that sometimes contain pus; a doctor should be consulted if this occurs.

Can Eczema be cured?

There is no cure for eczema but the condition can be managed to improve symptoms and reduce flares.

Management

  1. Emollients (moisturiser) are the most important treatment for eczema as they prevent dryness of the skin – this reduces steroid use, reduces flares, improves symptoms and quality of sleep.  Unfortunately most people do not use enough moisturiser and stop when their child’s symptoms resolve.  It is important to continue moisturising daily even when the skin is good to avoid eczema flares.

Moisturiser tips:

  • Avoid fragranced moisturiser.
  • Do not use moisturiser with sodium laurel sulphate (SLS) as it irritates the skin.
  • The moisturiser should be removed with a spoon/spatula or use pump bottles to reduce contamination.
  • Check expiry dates as after expiration the risk of contamination increases.

2. Avoiding irritants to the skin and other triggers when possible.

  • Avoid soaps, bubble baths when you wash. They can dry out the skin and make it more prone to irritation. Instead, use a soap substitute.
  • Try as much as possible not to scratch. To help with this, keep nails short and use anti-scratch mittens in babies.
  • Wear cotton clothes next to skin rather than irritating fabrics such as wool.
  • Avoid getting too hot or too cold as extremes of temperature can irritate the skin.
  • After you wash clothes with detergent, rinse them well. Consider use of washing powder for ‘sensitive skin’.

3. Management of flares

  • Creams called corticosteroids are important in the management of eczema.
  • They are often under-used due to a fear about the side effects.

– Topical steroids are unlikely to cause skin thinning or any long term harm if used appropriately.

-They are different than “anabolic steroids”.

-The percentage on the cream does not indicate strength of the cream.

  • If your doctor recommends steroid cream check that you know:

-When to use it.

-How much to use.

-How long to use it.

  • If the flare is not settling with treatment then please see your doctor as a stronger steroid may be needed or there may be infection present.

Eczema is a difficult condition for parents to manage and there are a lot of myths regarding steroid cream treatments.  If you have any questions regarding your child’s eczema please come in to see us at HealthZone Medical.

Dr Rebecca Higgins

HealthZone Medical GP

HealthZone Medical is located on the ground floor inside AUT Millennium.  Go through the entrance doors of the main building, past the Café and past the stairs and on the left you will see us.

If you would like to make an appointment please contact one of our friendly receptionists on 09 477 2090.

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