Kids often get little itches or rashes, but eczema is different and according to various sources the number of kiwi kids affected by estimates is around 20% to 25%.
Eczema occurs when the skin’s barrier function is impaired in some way – this leaves it vulnerable to irritation from soaps, lotions, clothing, and weather. Skin prone to eczema is far more sensitive and some studies suggest that this is due to thinner outer layers of skin.
The exact cause of eczema is unknown and there is no cure. So treatment is really based on controlling symptoms until the eczema resolves.
Get a Diagnosis
But first things first, you really do need to get your child a proper diagnosis from a qualified medical practitioner. Not least because it's easy to confuse other things for eczema. For example, infantile seborrhoeic dermatitis is often mistaken for eczema. It causes cradle cap and moist red areas in the skin folds - but it isn't itchy and tends to improve after six months of age. To manage eczema correctly - you need to be absolutely sure it is eczema.
While there is no cure for eczema, there are various ways to manage the symptoms. Frequent moisturising is really important. And you should try to avoid all known skin irritants, such as soaps, bubble bath - any skin care containing harsh alcohol or SLS (sodium lauryl sulphate). So check labels on anything you’re putting on your child’s skin.
Following a simple daily regime can also help relieve symptoms.
Bath once or twice daily in warm/tepid water. One of the most important complications of eczema is that scratching itchy skin can cause tiny breakages in the skin that can then become infected. A simple way to deal with this is to add a very small amount of household bleach to bath water once a week. Dermatologists recommend adding just 2mls of household bleach per litre of bathwater. Yes, this sounds like a surprising remedy and many people think that bleach is too harsh for children’s skin. But, this is a well-recognised, safe and easy way to prevent infection and the bleach levels are highly diluted.
After bathing pat skin dry – don’t rub. And don’t share towels.
Apply moisturiser immediately after bathing to towel-dry skin. Use plenty of it all over, smoothing it down in the same direction as hairs. Moisturise at least 2 – 3 times daily. And remember, it is really important to make sure your hands are clean before applying moisturiser.
It’s also important to choose a moisturiser that’s not going to irritate the skin. So check ingredients carefully.
Our Rhino Repair cream is approved by the NZ Eczema Association and NZ dermatologists. It’s a powerful natural healing cream that reduces irritation and smooths dry, itchy skin and it’s become a bathroom cabinet staple for many families.
These reduce inflammation and are useful in severe cases of eczema. Follow the advice of your qualified medical practitioner and always use as prescribed. Short bursts of more potent topical steroids have been shown to be more effective than long term treatment with a weaker dose and short-term steroid use does not thin the skin. Always discuss your treatment options with your doctor.
Avoid harsh, scratchy clothing. Light cotton is best on the skin. Choose clothing that is loose fitting around the neck, arms and armpits. If your infant is scratching during the night, a simple option is to slip some cotton booties over their hands. Keep nails short and clean. Change nappies frequently. If you are using cloth nappies, they should be rinsed well to get rid of laundry soap residue. Triple rinsing in a washing machine will do this very well. Where possible, line dry cloth nappies.
Studies show that food allergies do not appear to be a cause of eczema. Follow a whole-food, plant-based diet with plenty of variety for optimal health.
There is an alarming amount of misinformation about the treatment of eczema online. Keep yourself informed by following sites that offer robust, scientific, evidence-based advice.
If you’d like help on how to manage your child’s eczema, contact our dermatological nurse for a free, confidential consultation. It's quick and easy to book online.