Eczema In Children: Its Causes, Symptoms And Prevention

Image: iStock

Jump To:

Charlie had red lesions on his hands and scaly, red rashes on the elbow. He had an itch and wanted to scratch, but remembered what his mom said, “Scratch it and it will stay.” Charlie wanted it to go away, so bad! His eczema was diagnosed when he was seven. He is nine now and uses topical medication for the rashes. He also follows a strict lifestyle to prevent flare-ups.

Charlie is not alone.

Around 20% of children in the world are affected by some form of eczema. MomJunction tells you about eczema in kids, what causes it, and how to manage it.

What is Eczema?

Eczema is a typical condition where the skin on the body and the scalp gets itchy and red, prompting frequent scratching. Eczema is NOT contagious, which means your child can safely mingle with his siblings or friends. Read on to know the causes, symptoms of the condition, and how to manage so that it does not affect your child’s life negatively in any way.

The most common type of eczema is atopic dermatitis that resembles an allergy. This is more common in children than it is in adults.

Other types of eczema include:

  • Contact dermatitis
  • Hand eczema
  • Dyshidrotic eczema
  • Stasis dermatitis
  • Neurodermatitis
  • Nummular eczema

While most of these types also cause redness of skin and itching, some may result in blisters and peeling of the skin.

Causes Of Eczema In Children:

The exact cause of eczema is not known even today. However, what doctors can tell you is that the condition itself is not an allergy, but often a result of other allergies including food allergies. Although scientists cannot find the link between food allergies and atopic dermatitis, research states that around 37% of children with eczema have some food allergy (1).

Also, if your family history has cases of hay fever or asthma besides allergies, there is every chance that your child may suffer from the condition due to the gene makeup. Below are some causes of eczema in kids:

  1. Genetic disorder
  2. Atopic dermatitis – a skin disease also known as infantile eczema
  3. Environmental factors (heat, cold, humidity)
  4. Allergens such as dust, pollen, animal dander, and food allergens
  5. Asthma
  6. Excessive climatic conditions such as heat and humidity
  7. Emotional stress

Signs And Symptoms Of Eczema In Children:

Research states that around 10 to 20% infants and children are affected by eczema (2). The symptoms are mostly visible during the first five years of your kid’s life. After that, the condition is likely to reduce drastically or even disappear.

Here are some signs and symptoms that you have to watch out for in your child to know if it is the case of eczema:

  1. Itchy, dry, and red skin
  2. Small bumps on cheeks, forehead, or scalp
  3. Rash that spreads to limbs, often in the elbow, knee or ankle crease.
  4. Red, crusted, and opened lesions that are seen on the skin of any body part
  5. Circular and elevated scaly rashes that are frequently itchy
  6. Frequent scratching to reduce the itchy sensation

Usually, eczema tends to disappear as your child grows older. Your kid may encounter the condition at the onset of puberty during the hormonal shift in the teen years.

Prevention Of Eczema In A Child:

Recognizing symptoms and triggers and managing exzema effectively from the first outbreak is very beneficial. If your child develops the condition due to allergens and environmental factors, it is good to avoid the same by understanding what triggers it.

Make sure your child is kept away as much as possible from:

  1. Pollen
  2. Animal residue
  3. Skin care products that do not agree with the skin
  4. Food triggers (sometimes your child may be allergic to certain foods that cause rashes)
  5. Clothing triggers (certain clothing will not go well with your child’s sensitive skin)
  6. Frequent sweating due to over-exertion or being over-dressed
  7. Soaps, especially fragrant ones, can be one of the triggers that can cause eczema flare ups. Pick bathing soaps that are mild and have skin-soothing ingredients.

Diagnosis Of Eczema In Children:

The symptoms of eczema vary from one child to another, which makes diagnosing the condition at home a little difficult. In fact, doctors may also confuse it with other skin diseases such as psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis (cradle cap). There aren’t any specific tests either to diagnose eczema.

The diagnosis usually begins with the medical history of the child, to learn about any allergies, followed by the family’s medical history. The doctor will ask questions on the child’s environment, to determine what is triggering the flare ups if any. Sometimes, they may ask you to remove allergens from your child’s diet for a while avoid allergens such as milk, eggs, soy, peanuts, and tree nuts among others to see if the rash is caused by any of them.

In addition to that, the doctor will also examine the rash, and see for any signs of skin thickening. They might also ask about the duration of the rash. For further investigations, the doctor may recommend a blood test, a patch test, and a prick test by an allergist.

Treatment For Eczema In Children:

The doctor may prescribe topical creams and ointments, along with antibiotics, depending on the severity of the condition. Some of the eczema treatments include:

  1. Topical corticosteroids (cortisone or steroid creams)
  2. Non-steroid ointments used along with topical steroids
  3. Antihistamines (to control itching)
  4. UV light (severe eczema in children; this is done under supervision of a dermatologist)

There are many creams and moisturizers that you can use for eczema. But since it is an individual condition, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all treatment for this. Instead of looking for the best eczema cream for kids, look for a cream that is best for your kid, keeping in mind the symptoms.

Note: The creams and ointments should be used as prescribed by the doctor. They should not be bought over the counter without a prescription. Also, a topical cream suggested for one child cannot be applied to another, no matter how similar the condition is.

Home Remedies For Eczema In Kids

Application of steroid creams and other topical creams is necessary to treat the rash on the skin in times of an eczema outbreak. Besides the treatment, using a few homemade herbal remedies can help alleviate the symptoms, especially the itching, and prevent flare-ups.

1. Probiotics/Yogurt

Probiotics are great for skin health. Also, it is good bacteria that you need to prevent the harmful bacteria from multiplying and making the condition worse. Yogurt is an excellent probiotic. It also keeps the body cool and prevents flare-ups.

  • A cup or two of yogurt every day can be good for the skin.
  • You can also apply the yogurt on the affected areas of the skin, to soothe the itching or burning sensation.

2. Turmeric

Turmeric is antibacterial and one of the best herbal remedies for skin infections.

  • Mix turmeric with coconut, olive or jojoba oil and make a paste.
  • Apply it on the infected part of the skin for relief.

3. Oils

One of the symptoms of eczema is dry skin, which makes the skin itchy and irritable. So, moisturizing it as much as possible is necessary. Here are some herbal oils that you can use to give your child some relief from the itching.

  • Flax oil is anti-inflammatory and also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, making it an excellent moisturizer. Apply it gently on the child’s hands, feet, face, and other rash-affected parts to keep eczema under control.
  • Sesame oil is rich in vitamin E, which helps in keeping the skin moisturized. Apply the oil on the skin and then use a little turmeric powder and leave it for an hour before washing it off. While the oil keeps the skin moisturized, turmeric helps in fighting the bacteria.
  • Coconut oil is anti-fungal in nature and also has medicinal properties that help fight eczema-causing yeast on the skin. Application of coconut oil regularly can keep the skin moisturized and prevent the infection from spreading to other parts of the body.
  • Jojoba oil is another wonderful herbal remedy for eczema. Not all oils work for eczema, the severity of which can vary from person to person. If coconut oil doesn’t work for you, try jojoba oil which is more like liquid wax. Also, the oil’s molecular structure is similar to the molecular structure of our skin’s natural serum, which allows it to penetrate easily into the skin.

4. Sea spray

In the case of eczema with oozing rashes, the skin is already wet, and moisturizing it won’t help. Drying the skin is a better option. A homemade sea spray can help dry the skin and alleviate the oozing. If you don’t live near the ocean, here is how you can make the sea spray at home.

  • In a cup of boiled or distilled water, add one tablespoon of sea salt and mix well.
  • Add a pinch of magnesium flakes or Epsom salt to this mixture. Add a few drops of essential oils such as lavender.

Store it in a glass jar or a spray bottle and spray it on the skin at regular intervals. You can also use a cotton ball to dab the solution on the infected areas.

5. Grape seed extract

Grape seeds are rich in antioxidants and have an anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial nature, which help in reducing the redness and itching. This can be taken internally or applied on the skin, based on what the herbalist recommends for the condition.

6. Blueberry leaf

Blueberry leaf also has anti-inflammatory properties and can be applied on the rashes to heal the skin. If you don’t have access to blueberry leaves, you can find lotions and creams made from the extract. Besides reducing the infection, the leaves can also help prevent any secondary infections caused by bacteria.

7. Sandalwood

Sandalwood or Chandan (in India) has a soothing effect on the skin. Use water or oil to make sandalwood paste and apply it on the rashes for relief. Mixing sandalwood with a pinch of camphor can help reduce the itching as well, although camphor may not be ideal for babies and younger kids.

8. Magnesium baths

While soaking in water may not be a good idea for all children with eczema, some kids may benefit from magnesium baths. Adding a spoonful of magnesium flakes and sea salts to the kids’ bath can help heal the skin. If bathing is not helping, apply magnesium oil instead.

9. Aloe vera

One of the best herbal ingredients for skin health, aloe vera has a cooling property that works on repairing the skin and regenerating the dead skin tissues. Apply aloe vera gel on the infected skin for best results.

10. Oatmeal

Vitamin E is an essential nutrient that we need for skin health. Oatmeal is rich in this vitamin and can help treat skin affected by eczema. Roast the oats and powder them. Mix this with one of the essential oils and apply it on the infected areas to heal the skin and reduce the inflammation.

11. Managing moisture level

One of the most effective ways to manage eczema from any age is to wash your baby/child with a non perfumed pure soap and within a minute of washing to pat your child dry and apply a non-perfumed, pure moisturizing cream to lock in the moisture.

Other herbal remedies you can try include Vitamin E, nutmeg, healing salve, and chamomile tea. You can also try giving the child gelatin-based foods and liver cod oil to alleviate the symptoms of eczema.

Some Important Pointers For Parents:

As a parent, you have to ensure a few things so that your child can get rid of eczema in a more efficient way.

Your child’s personal hygiene is very crucial. Make sure that there is a clean regime maintained along with good skin care every day.

  1. Clothing should be washed in mild detergents so that the condition is not aggravated due to triggers.
  1. Watch out for the red flags such as increased fever, warmth around the affected areas, and pus filled bumps and blisters. These have to be reported to the doctor immediately.
  1. Following a healthy lifestyle and good hygiene helps manage eczema. The tendency to scratch has to be curbed so that your child is completely cured. Talk to your family specialist for more inputs specific to your child.

In addition to these precautions, you should also give your child a healthy diet consisting of vegetables and fruits that are good for the skin. Besides the eight common allergens (peanuts, soy, eggs, milk, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, and wheat), avoid any foods that your child may be allergic to, to prevent flare-ups.

Some people complain that eating citrus fruits such as strawberries, oranges, and tomatoes also worsen the condition. Your allergist can help you determine which foods are helping your kid and which are not.

While you may not be able to prevent eczema, it can generally be kept under control.

How do you help your child deal with eczema? Share your experiences with us.

Recommended Articles