Eczema: Eczema is an inflammatory condition of the skin. The skin may become red, dry, itchy, and scaly. It may bleed or weep clear fluid, and may form a crusty covering on the skin. Eczema is not contagious. Some children keep a light rash or other symptoms at all times. Eczema can occur in all ages but is usually seen by 12 months of age. The symptoms may improve over time with care, often by six years of age. This skin condition is quite uncomfortable, often making it difficult for children to sleep, sit still, and pay attention to directions. A child with eczema is at risk for skin infections due to the cracks or openings in the skin. Infants and young children may have a rash on the face, elbows, or knees. In older children and adults, the rash is often found on the hands, neck, inner elbows, backs of the knees, and ankles.
Causes: Doctors don’t know exactly what causes eczema. The most common type of eczema resembles and allergy, but is actually not an allergic reaction. Eczema may be caused by a combination of factors including:
- Abnormal function of the immune system
- Activities that may cause skin to be more sensitive
- Defects in the skin barrier that allow germs in
Some people may have their eczema worsen as a reaction to some foods, including dairy, wheat, citrus, eggs, nuts, seafood, chemical food additives, and preservatives. Stress, including changes of routine, changes in caregivers, older children being embarrassed by the look of their skin, or school pressure may also worsen eczema. Exposure to types of clothing, soaps, shampoos, and washing powders may cause it to worsen, as well as hot and humid weather or cold and dry weather.
Treatment: Applying moisturizer with no added fragrance daily (or more often) is very important. Learn and avoid those things that trigger eczema for that child. An anti-inflammatory topical cream such as hydrocortisone may be necessary to control a flare of eczema.
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