Point of View
Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is a chronic skin condition that results in breakouts of itchy, red dry skin. Often caused by genetics or overexposure to a dry climate, eczema is a lack of moisture in the skin. As a dermatologist and mother of two children with eczema, I am familiar with the condition and how it is best treated. Causes Eczema is predominantly a hereditary condition and typically appears before a child turns 5. About one in four of my patients shows symptoms of eczema. Although many people have different forms of the condition, it is not contagious. Broken down scientifically, eczema is a result of filaggrin proteins inhibiting the skin’s ability to retain moisture. When water evaporates off the skin, the epidermis becomes dry and the microscopic nerve endings are exposed, creating an itching sensation. Factors Genetics is the most common cause of eczema. Still, certain environmental factors can add to its severity. Dry climates, bathing in very hot water or using harsh soaps or detergents can cause or induce eczema. Since it’s difficult to avoid scratching what itches, it’s best to focus on relieving the itch. Dry Air Using heaters during colder months can result in a dry, irritating indoor climate for the skin, in addition to the already harsh outdoor weather. Consider using a humidifier to help balance the moisture in the air. Hot Water You don’t have to bathe your child in cold water, but keep baths and showers short and use warm, not hot, water. The contrast of temperatures creates a severe drying sensation, causing eczema symptoms to worsen. On that note, don’t scrub your child’s skin too hard while bathing. This can irritate the skin, especially if a breakout has already begun. Soaps/Detergents Use soaps and detergents that are fragrance-free and have a neutral pH. Consider using a non-soap bar for bathing. They are generally milder and don’t strip the oils from the skin. To make sure your detergents rinse completely from your child’s clothing, consider double rinsing it before drying. Medicine Although there is no cure for eczema, taking an antihistamine can be helpful to relieve the itching sensation. These can be purchased over the counter at drug stores, and a doctor may prescribe more potent versions if your child’s case requires it. Topical Treatment While there are some creams and ointments for more severe cases, there are plenty of natural options to help control the dryness and restore the moisture barrier. Some examples include coconut oil, shea butter and Crisco. Applying these topical treatments regularly to both affected and unaffected skin can help soothe and prevent inflammation. Eczema is an uncomfortable condition to live with. As the mother of two children living with it and a doctor who sees patients with it on a daily basis, I can speak to the discomfort it causes. But I can also assure you that it is a manageable condition if you educate yourself on the topic and take the measures listed above. Dr. Purvisha Patel operates two clinics and a medi spa serving more than 5,000 patients in the Memphis, TN area. She maintains a blog here: http://advanceddermatology.blogspot.com/ Opinions expressed in this article belong solely to the writer and are not necessarily that of TruKid’s.