Atopic dermatitis (eczema) in children
Atopic dermatitis, or eczema, is the most common skin disease in
children. It can be severe and life-altering. Fortunately, in many
cases, it lessens with age. In infants, it most commonly involves
the face and scalp, but sometimes all of the skin is involved. The
itchiness induces scratching and rubbing (called the itch-scratch
cycle), which in itself worsens the inflammation and itch, leading
to sores and sometimes skin infection. Most children "outgrow"
eczema, but in some cases, flares continue and reoccur throughout
Growing up with eczema causes a severe amount of emotional
hardship for both the parents and the child sufferer because of its
impact on appearance. The chronic discomfort limits nighttime sleep
(for both the child and parents), which can interrupt focus and
lead to sleepiness at school. Furthermore, school-age children with
this condition are often subject to ridicule by classmates. The
persistent itching and visible inflamed sores may lead children to
isolate themselves from others in order to avoid further
embarrassment. This often results in a loss of self-esteem or lower
productivity at school.
Parents and caregivers face many challenges when caring for and
nurturing children with eczema. They often must make many life
changes including giving up family pets, replacing carpets with
wood floors, avoiding sea water beach vacations and altering social
plans when children are suffering. They must also be aware of the
potential emotional problems caused by the condition and
proactively discuss concerns and solutions with their child and
Parents and doctors usually work through a range of current
treatments to find the best way to help these children. Common
- Topical prescription steroid creams and ointments
- Antibiotics for skin infections
For severe cases, treatments include:
- Systemic corticosteroids
- Phototherapy (ultraviolet A or B)
Many dermatologists report that patient dissatisfaction with
these therapies often result in patients becoming frustrated with
and discontinuing their treatment programs.
In order to help control the itching associated with eczema and
its inflammations, parents, caregivers and sufferers must establish
a regular skin care routine with a physician. Tips to minimize
- Wear cotton or non-irritating clothing to avoid common skin
- Keep the bedroom cool to avoid sweating during the night that
could trigger flares.
- Take brief, lukewarm baths and showers using mild soap or
- Gently wash and pat the skin dry with a soft towel as opposed
to wiping skin dry after cleansing.
- Apply lubricants (creams or ointments) and anti-inflammatory
medications (as prescribed by a doctor) to affected areas
immediately after drying.
- Cut the child's nails short to avoid scratching and risk for
- Educate teachers and other caregivers on the child's condition.
Inform them that they may need to administer medications during
During the first year, at least one third of children with
eczema will have allergies to particular foods. While some foods
may trigger attacks, most researchers agree that eliminating them
is not a cure. Always consult with a physician first before
altering an infant or toddler's diet.
American Academy of
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a
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