Common Skin Problems in Children
What is Eczema?
Eczema is a generic term that applies to a range of non-contagious skin conditions that carry symptoms such as redness, swelling, rashing, dryness, crusting, flaking or even bleeding.
The most common form of eczema is known as Atopic Eczema or Atopic Dermatitis. It is also known as ‘flexural eczema’ because it mostly affects the folded areas of skin around the joints, particularly behind the knees, the inside of the elbows, the side of the neck as well as around the eyes and ears.
Because of widespread change in lifestyles, along with the steadily increasing presence of certain chemicals in our everyday lives, the number of people diagnosed with atopic eczema has increased in recent years.
This increase could also be because healthcare professionals are becoming more aware of the symptoms.
It is found most commonly in children but can continue into adulthood. In 8 out of 10 cases, atopic eczema occurs before a child reaches the age of five.
Types of eczema include:
- Circular or oval patches of eczema that usually affect adults (discoid eczema)
- Eczema that occurs when the body comes into contact with a particular substance (contact dermatitis)
- Eczema that occurs on the legs, usually around swollen and enlarged veins (varicose eczema)
- Red, scaly patches that can occur on the sides of the nose, eyebrows, ears and scalp (seborrhoeic eczema)
Causes and triggers
Eczema is largely genetic and often runs in families. Studies have even shown that in 60% of cases, children whose parents have eczema will also develop symptoms.
Symptoms are more likely to occur in people who have allergies. In fact, studies of children and young people with atopic eczema found that between 35% and 70% also had a food allergy.
Unfortunately, although we understand the triggers, the exact cause of atopic eczema is unknown. Common triggers that induce itchiness, rashes and other symptoms in sufferers include:
- House dust mites
- Pet fur
- Pollen and dust
Food Product Allergy:
- Cows’ milk
- Cold water
- Harsh Soaps
- Washing too much
- Rough Clothing, such as wool or nylon
- Chemicals touching skin (such as perfume)
- Hormonal Changes (particularly in women)
What are the dangers?
Eczema itself causes no serious long-term damage, but constant scratching can lead to a variety of problems. Cracked, sore and bleeding skin are not uncommon and consistent broken skin is likely to lead to infection. Many eczema sufferers have disrupted sleeping patterns due to scratching and discomfort and, in some cases, irritation can be so severe that it takes a significant physical and mental toll on the body.
Tips for prevention
Keep the skin constantly moisturised to prevent it from becoming dry and cracked, reducing tenderness and itching.
Take extra care to avoid substances that induce even mild allergic reactions, as well as well as all irritants e.g. soaps, irritating fabrics, detergents.
Keep the temperature in your home and office cool, as heat will aggravate rashes.
To help reduce the itching of severe eczema, there are a number of different medications, dry wraps, wet wraps and dressings that will help, as well as reduce swelling.
As we mentioned before, eczema usually only affects children and teenagers and will clear up as a sufferer matures.
In 65% cases, atopic eczema clears up by the time the child reaches 16 years of age. In fact, NHS studies show that 53% of the time it clears up before sufferers turn 11 years old.
Some of the most common general treatments are:
- Emollients (moisturising treatments) help to prevent water loss by forming a protective film. They are a very common and important treatment for atopic eczema
- Topical corticosteroids, which are used to reduce swelling and redness during flare-ups.
- Antihistamines will help sever itching
- Topical immunosuppresants (such as pimecrolimus cream, tacrolimus ointment) also help to reduce reaction
- Infected eczema can usually be treated effectively with antibiotics
Warts and verrucas
- Wart's and verrucas should not be touched and certainly not picked as this will spread the virus
- Towels, flannels, socks and shoes should not be shared with someone who has a wart / verruca
- If your child is going swimming or using communal showers get them to wear flip flops or (ideally) verruca socks