Many parents are faced with the problems associated with having a baby or young child with eczema. It can be heart-breaking seeing your little one suffering, trying to do all you can to cope with the condition and not finding relief. These problems can have a huge impact on the whole family with sleepless nights being a very common side effect.
Eczema affects up to 30% of the Australian population at some time of life. Although there is no known cure for eczema, the condition can be controlled.
Eczema, or dermatitis as it is sometimes called, is a disorder which results in dry, inflamed and sometimes weeping or infected skin. It can cause redness and intense itching. The most common form is Atopic. Although it can look unpleasant, eczema is not contagious. With suitable treatment, the inflammation and itchiness of eczema can be reduced.
The causes of eczema are many and varied and depend on the particular type of eczema that a person has. Atopic eczema is thought to be a hereditary condition, being genetically linked. Some people with atopic eczema are sensitive to allergens in the environment. There is an excessive reaction by the immune system producing inflamed, irritated and sore skin. Associated atopic conditions include asthma and hay fever. Other types of eczema are caused by irritants such as chemicals and detergents and allergens such as nickel.
As eczema is a very individual condition, finding the right treatments is a trial-and-error process. Fortunately, there are many ways to ease the suffering and a huge number of products on the market especially formulated for treating the condition including soap-free washes, emollients, topical steroids and other treatments such as wet-wrapping, natural therapies, immunosuppressant creams, etc. The right treatment regime for the individual can make a big difference to the condition of the skin as the photos below show.
It is important to have the condition properly diagnosed by your GP and it is wise to visit a Dermatologist who specialises in skin conditions.
Some other strategies for reducing the severity of eczema include the use of cotton clothing and bedding, reduction of dust mites and keeping the sufferer as cool as possible. The use of a suitable infant formula and following an appropriate diet (strictly under the direction of a professional dietitian) can also help.
Moisturizing the skin is very important as it keeps it supple and less likely to crack. You will need to do this at least twice a day, using emollient cream. After the bath is a good time as the skin is moist. Pat the skin with a soft towel leaving it slightly damp. First apply any steroid creams or ointments you have been prescribed, allow time for the medication to be absorbed and then gently apply the emollients. Always wash your hands before applying creams or ointments and make sure that containers are closed tightly straight after use.
Breast Feeding & Weaning
Breast milk is best for all babies and Mums-to-be are strongly encouraged to breast feed their babies exclusively if there is a family history of eczema or asthma. However, some babies who have been exclusively breast-fed still develop eczema, even while they are being breast-fed.
If you are able to breast-feed, do so for as long as possible and do not supplement feeds with cow's milk or formula feeds if possible. If you are not able to breast-feed, there are a number of formulas especially designed for babies with allergies. Discuss this with your pharmacist.
If you wish to adjust your diet, or that of your baby's, it is essential that you consult a dietitian before doing so to ensure that your baby receives adequate nourishment for proper development.
When you begin weaning watch carefully for any reactions, in particular to cow's milk, eggs and fish. These foods most commonly cause problems in infants with atopic eczema. Swelling or itching of the lips, or sickness, are signs that your child may be intolerant to these foods.
Infants who, at an early age seem to react to certain foods, can often tolerate them when they get older.