Eczema can become a problem
My four-year-old has eczema. It started behind her knees but it is now all over her legs. What causes it? How can I treat it and prevent it from spreading?
Your daughter has eczema, an inborn tendency toward dry, itchy skin and allergies. The cause of eczema is mainly genetic. There is no way to change genetics. The important issue is not what causes eczema in the first place, but what allergies and skin irritants your daughter is exposed to that is triggering the flare-ups. Eczema is an ongoing battle on two fronts – where skin is trying to retain moisture in the skin, prevent irritation, itching and limiting exposure to allergens and skin irritants. There are five main aspects of preventing, treating and spreading eczema in your daughter.
Avoid dry skin. Moisturise, moisturise, moisturise! This is the single most important step in minimising your daughter’s eczema. Use lukewarm, non-soapy water baths and avoid hot water which can dry the skin. Towel off gently by patting the skin. Do not rub dry. Do not use plain soap – soap dries the skin, even liquid baby soap. Use a perfume-free and unscented moisturising non-soap cleanser. Applying of moisturising lotions or creams, at least two to four times a day, also helps to prevent eczema.
Avoid skin irritants. This is the second most important aspect of prevention. Avoid wool and synthetic materials. Cotton clothing is best. Use cotton sheets and blankets. Wash new clothes before wearing them as this will get any chemicals from the manufacturing process out. Avoid any perfumed or scented lotions. Avoid bubble baths. Use a mild, dye-free laundry detergent. Double rinse the wash to get out all the detergent. Shower or have a bath after your daughter plays in the grass or engages in sports that make her sweaty.
Avoid allergic triggers. If your daughter has any food allergies, it will play a major role in causing eczema. The problem is, you may not know if she has any food allergies, and if she does, what is she allergic to? There are six common foods that make up nearly 90 per cent of possible allergic foods. These are milk, egg, soy, peanuts, fish and wheat. Eliminate all six foods for two to three weeks. If you see dramatic improvement, then re-introduce each food one at a time to determine which is causing the allergy. Avoid environmental allergies such as dust, mould, pets, and seasonal outdoor allergies such as pollens. Identifying and preventing these allergies is a complicated process. It's best to consult your paediatrician.
Control the itch. Controlling the itch is a major problem for children with eczema, since kids are in a continuous cycle of itching and scratching, due to dry, irritated skin. The scratching further irritates the skin, which causes the rash to flare up. If you can keep the skin moisturised, decrease the rash, and prevent scratching, you might be able to avoid this endless cycle. Keep fingernails short and clean so if your daughter scratches, the bacteria that live under her nails and on her skin won't get pushed deeper into the rash. This can lead to a skin infection. A very effective way to control itching would be by using medications such as oral antihistamines. Consult your paediatrician beforehand.
Apply a cream. Topical steroid cortisone creams have long been the gold standard to minimise the rash and itching from eczema. If you're thinking about this as a treatment option, you'll need to consult your paediatrician.