Stop That Itch: All About Eczema

While eczema can be controlled, it can be hard for the little ones and scratching only makes the problem worse.

WORDS ANGEL DREWGUS

Eczema affects up to 20 per cent of school-going children in Singapore. Eczema flares occur when the skin is very dry if it comes in contact with irritating substances or allergic triggers, or when the skin is infected. In babies, saliva from drooling may cause additional irritation, particularly to the cheeks, chin, and neck.
    
Eczema is a very common condition in childhood. For many children, it is also a temporary one and even in the most severe forms, it is not life-threatening. However, eczema, in some cases can or may have a marked effect on the quality of life of both the child with eczema and the parents.
    
Eczema causes a discomfort which is not easily relieved. The discomfort caused by itching and the constant desire to scratch can be very draining over time. Babies or young children with eczema often appear slightly on edge or irritable all the time.

What You Should Know
Eczema is a common skin condition in children. It is a non-contagious, inflammatory condition that results in redness, itching and scaly rashes. It presents as an itchy dry skin condition during the first year of life or later, explains Dr Teo Wan Lin, specialist in dermatology and consultant, Raffles Skin & Aesthetic. The child will develop dry and scaly patches which can happen on the scalp, forehead, face (especially the cheeks), the elbows and the knees. Parents may notice that the infant may rub his skin against bedding or carpeting to relieve the itch which can be so intense that it affects sleep. It is important to be aware that scratching can lead to skin infections, says Dr Teo.

Eczema tends to be long lasting, and it is vital to seek treatment and apply proper skincare which can alleviate much of the discomfort.

What is the relationship between eczema and atopic dermatitis?
These terms are often used interchangeably. Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a medical term which refers to a condition in which itchy dry scaly patches appear on the skin, often in children during their first year of life, explains Dr Teo.

Are there different types of eczema (in children)?
Eczema, explains Dr Teo, can manifest in different areas in different age groups. For infants, the cheeks, scalp and extensors (outsides) of the elbows and knees are commonly affected. Eczema usually occurs on the folds of elbows and knees in older children.

How is eczema diagnosed (in children)?
Eczema is usually diagnosed by a medical professional. The presence of itchy, dry skin symptoms in the commonly affected areas is suggestive of eczema. This can be supported by a family history of eczema, asthma, or hay fever, says Dr Teo.

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