The skin condition “eczema” is common in young children. According to the National Eczema Society one in five children in the UK has eczema and in eight out of ten cases the condition develops before a child reaches five years of age.
Often considered a winter ailment, eczema can be aggravated by warmer temperatures and during the summer months the combination of sweat and sensitive skin can trigger an eczema flare up.
With the summer months now upon us we ask The Portland Hospital’s Children’s Dermatologist, Professor John Harper, to explain how you can keep your child’s eczema symptoms at bay this summer.
What is eczema?
Eczema is an itchy inflammation of the skin that affects as many as 20 per cent of children in the UK. For many children eczema will be a temporary, minor skin complaint that affects the skin creases such as their knees and elbows, but for some individuals eczema can escalate quickly and spread across the body, causing the skin to become red and very uncomfortable.
How can the weather affect my child’s eczema?
The change of seasons can have a significant effect on a child with eczema. In the winter a cold dry environment will often make the condition worse and in the summer the hot weather can trigger an eczema flare up.
In addition to the change in temperature other factors such as sweating, chlorine in swimming pools and some sun creams can aggravate sensitive skin.
How can I treat my child’s eczema?
Due to the flare ups associated with the condition, eczema can be a very difficult condition to manage. If your child’s eczema is aggravating them, to help relieve the symptoms you could consider:
-Bathing your child once or twice a day in cool water.
-Using an oily bath additive, a cream cleansing agent to wash the skin and applying a light moisturising cream to all areas of dry skin at least twice daily, even when your child has no eczema as this will help to keep the skin in good condition.
-And avoiding using thick greasy ointments as these prevent the skin from sweating, leading to overheating and increased itching. It is better to use creams or oily creams as a moisturiser in the summer which have a water base and soak into the skin allowing the skin to sweat normally.
How important is it to be pro-active in treating childhood eczema?
It is essential to be pro-active and treat all areas of active eczema (red and pink areas) using an appropriate anti-inflammatory cream prescribed by your doctor, which is usually a topical steroid preparation. The areas of eczema should respond to treatment within three to five days and using mild to moderate steroid creams intermittently as needed is safe so long as your child is regularly monitored by your doctor (either a GP or Dermatologist).
My child’s eczema is affecting their sleep. How can I manage this?
Some children require antihistamine such as a sedative antihistamine at night to reduce itching and help the child sleep. A non-sedative antihistamine may also be suitable if allergy is playing a significant role in aggravating the eczema.
How can I reduce the risk of my child’s eczema flaring up this summer?
Your child will no doubt want to play out in the sun and jump into the nearest swimming pool this summer. This is fine but to avoid a flare up of eczema it is essential that you take some precautions.
These precautions include avoiding exposure to strong sunlight, especially over the mid-day period; using a total sunblock cream to protect from sunburn; limiting the time in a swimming pool to about 30 minutes, rinsing off the chlorine and applying a moisturising cream out of the sun.
If you would like more information on managing your child’s eczema please contact Professor John Harper at The Portland Hospital on telephone number 0207 390 8308 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
More information can also be found on www.childrensskindoctor.com