Eczema In Kids: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, And Remedies

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Eczema is a non-contagious skin condition commonly characterized by itchy, red, and thick patches of skin. It can be of different types, namely dyshidrotic eczema, contact dermatitis, atopic dermatitis, and seborrheic dermatitis (1). Atopic eczema is the most common type affecting about 20% of children in the US and is likely to manifest between six months and five years (1) (2). Although there is no treatment to cure the disease completely, the available medications and remedies may help ease the discomfort.

In this post, you can learn about eczema in children, including its causes, symptoms, and treatments.

Causes Of Eczema In Children

The exact cause behind atopic dermatitis, eczema that affects children predominantly, is not known. However, certain factors are believed to contribute towards its development in children. These include (3) (4):

  • Hereditary: Atopic eczema can occur due to genetic factors. A child may inherit the condition from the parents if they possess the same.
  • Lack of protective barrier: Children with eczema lack the protein filaggrin. Present in the epidermis, filaggrin provides a protective barrier between the skin and the external factors. Children lacking an adequate amount of this protein may develop rashes or redness in response to the irritants.
  • Immune system: A highly sensitive immune system may cause children to develop an allergic response to external factors, such as hot, cold, or dry weather, pollen, house dust mites, soap, and certain food. Such allergies may also be inherited from parents.

Symptoms Of Eczema In Children

Children usually develop eczema in the elbow creases and the feet. Besides the common symptoms such as rashes that develop from continuous scratching of the itchy red patches, other symptoms that are likely to appear with the progress of the disease include (5):

    • Hardening of the affected area or the patches.
  • Lightening or darkening of the patches.
  • Inflammation of the area, giving the appearance of permanent goosebumps.
  • Formation of blisters from constant scratching. These can release fluids and may cause an infection.
  • Increased itchiness of the hardened patches.

Note: The rashes may also develop around the mouth, the neck, behind the knees, ankles, wrists, and the crease of the buttocks.

Complications Of Eczema In Children

Long term complications of eczema in children include (6) (7):

  • About 80% of children with atopic eczema are at an increased risk of developing allergic rhinitis (hay fever). It is an inflammation of the mucus lining inside the nose, triggered by allergic reactions such as pollen and dust allergy. This may, at times, be accompanied by asthma.
  • Prolonged use of topical corticosteroids can eventually cause thinning of the skin and the underneath tissue.
  • The constant itching can disrupt your child’s sleep, which may take a toll on the health and possibly lead to depression.

Diagnosis Of Eczema In Children

As the first step of diagnosis, the doctor may inquire about any family history of atopic eczema. After ruling out the possibility of genetic factors, the following tests may be carried out for diagnosis ((8) (6):

  • Blood test: A blood test is carried out to determine IgE (Immunoglobulin E) antibody level. An increased number may indicate an ongoing allergic reaction and/or atopic eczema.
  • Prick test: The doctor pricks the skin in different parts with diluted allergens. The area is observed for 15 minutes, and inflammation and redness indicate a positive result. In children, the test is carried out on their backs.

Eczema Treatment For Children

Treatment for atopic eczema is provided to lessen the itching, redness, and inflammation of the skin. The treatments include (9):

  • Antihistamine: Antihistamine is a medicine that can help reduce itching. Certain antihistamines, including benadryl and anthrax, may cause sleepiness, while some newly available ones do not. Hence, children should be given these medicines only after consulting a healthcare provider.
  • Steroid creams: Topical steroid creams help reduce inflammation, but overuse can lead to skin damage and hence should be used with caution.
  • Oral antibiotics: Administration of oral antibiotics will decelerate the growth of microorganisms. A biopsy of the affected part can help determine the antibiotic to be prescribed for an effective treatment.
  • Immunomodulators: Certain topical immunomodulators can be applied to the affected area, which can either increase or decrease the immune response. Thus, controlling the inflammation and itching.
  • Phototherapy: Light therapy involves safe exposure of the child to light, particularly ultraviolet B (UVB) light. Although home phototherapy devices are available, it is advisable to consult a doctor for the treatment.

Home Remedies For Eczema In Children

Some home remedies that can ease the irritation include (10) (7):

  1. Bleach bath: Prepare a full tub with lukewarm water and mix half a cup of household bleach. Let your child relax in it for about ten minutes and pat dry. Regular warm baths can also help reduce eczema flare-ups.

Consult your child’s health care provider before carrying out the bleach baths to know the exact duration and the frequency.

  1. Moisturization: Dry skin can lead to severe itching. Regular moisturization with ointments as prescribed and practicing gentle skin care can reduce the symptoms and prevent the disease from developing.
  1. Short fingernails: Scratching can cause further damage by producing blisters. Cutting the fingernails can prevent infection or the development of a wound that might result from harsh scratching.
  1. Avoiding triggers: In case of an allergic reaction, you should make sure that your child stays away from any allergens such as specific food, extreme temperatures or any external factors, as determined by the doctor. This may help prevent the worsening of atopic eczema.
  1. Proper clothing: Wearing rough or harsh fabrics may further irritate the skin. Put on some smooth and airy yet fully covered clothing that will keep them cool and protected from exposure to dust or any other allergens.
  1. Wet wraps: Wrapping the affected area with a warm wet cloth or towel after applying topical steroid cream can increase the efficacy of the medicine. This helps the medicine spread deeper into the skin. You can also use wet pants or pajamas if the rash is on the legs.

Atopic dermatitis is common in children and typically fades away with age. Although it is a mild disease if the symptoms do not improve even after the prescribed medication and home remedies, you should consult your child’s doctor immediately. This can help prevent the risk for infections and worsening of the condition.


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Aneesha Amonz

Aneesha holds a Bachelor's degree in Biotechnology from USTM, Meghalaya and Master’s degree in Applied Microbiology from VIT, Vellore. She has worked on different research projects in the field of Food Sciences. In addition, she has an internship experience in Oil India Limited as an R&D project trainee. As a writer at MomJunction, Aneesha ensures her content is engaging and... more