Eczema in children: what you need to know

By: Osler Health International
Posted on: 1 Apr 2022

What is eczema, and what can you do to alleviate it? Here’s all you need to know about eczema in children.

What is eczema?

Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a chronic skin condition that results in itchy, inflamed and dry skin. While eczema is most common in children, it can occur at any age.

In most cases, eczema begins before the age of 5 and may persist in adolescence and adulthood. It could also flare up periodically over several years.

What causes eczema in children?

The exact cause of eczema in children is unknown. Researchers believe that a combination of genetic and environmental factors contribute to the development of eczema. For example, when there’s a sudden change in environmental temperature, or when the skin is exposed to potential allergens like animal fur and harsh soaps, the immune system is triggered, causing an eczema flare-up. Food allergies may also be a possible trigger for childhood eczema.

Children with a personal or family history of eczema, asthma or allergies generally have a greater risk of developing eczema.

What does eczema look like in children?

The signs and symptoms of eczema can vary from child to child. They include: 

  • Dry, itchy and inflamed skin 
  • Patches of skin that may look reddish, purplish, brownish or greyish, depending on the skin tone 
  • Small, raised bumps that may secrete fluid and crust over when scratched 
  • Skin that appears thickened, cracked and scaly 
  • Raw and sensitive skin due to scratching 

Note that the location of eczema may differ as your child grows. Here’s what to look out for at every stage of your child’s development: 

  • Infants (0-6 months): on the face, cheeks, chin, forehead, scalp 
  • Babies (6-12 months): on the elbows, knees 
  • Toddlers (2-5 years): creases of the elbows and knees, on the wrists, hands, ankles 
  • Children (5 years and up): folds of the elbows and knees, behind the ears, on the feet and scalp 

What can aggravate eczema?

Every child is different and may react differently to potential allergens and irritants. Here are some common eczema triggers: 

  • Environmental factors, such as cold and dry weather, heat and humidity, pet fur, pollen, moulds and dust mites 
  • Skin irritants, such as harsh soaps and detergents 
  • Certain clothing, such as those made of wool and synthetic fabrics 
  • Food allergies, such as allergies to peanuts, eggs and cow’s milk 
  • Skin infections 
  • Stress

What can I do to alleviate my child’s eczema?

Knowing what triggers your child’s eczema and taking action to avoid them is the first step to alleviating the condition. Here are some tips to ease your child’s eczema flares:

  • Moisturise at least twice a day. Opt for creams and lotions containing ceramides. Ceramides are fatty acids that not only replenish the skin with moisture, but also restore the skin’s protective barrier by repairing breaks in the skin. Alternatively, you can ask your doctor to recommend a suitable moisturiser. 
  • Take lukewarm baths or showers. Taking baths or showers using warm water can help to ease itching on the skin. Avoid using hot water and limit your child’s baths or showers to no more than 15 minutes.
  • Use mild, unscented soaps. Harsh, perfumed soaps can strip the skin of moisture and its natural oils, aggravating eczema.
  • Dry off carefully. After bathing, gently pat your child’s skin dry with a soft towel. Avoid rubbing against the skin. 
  • Dress in loose, comfortable clothes. Opt for breathable, absorbent fabrics like cotton to keep your child’s skin cool and dry all day.

If your child continues to experience discomfort despite trying home remedies, it’s time to see a doctor. You should also seek medical attention immediately if you notice signs of infection on top of eczema, such as yellow or brown crust and pus-filled blisters. 

Speak to our dedicated doctors at Osler Health today for your child’s skin needs!

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