Atopic eczema is a common skin disease in children. It is so common that people have given it a few names:
- Eczema (name most people use)
- Atopic eczema
- Atopic dermatitis
To avoid confusion, we’ll use the term ‘atopic eczema’.
Children often get atopic during their first year of life. If a child gets atopic eczema during this time, dry and scaly patches appear on the skin. These patches appear on the scalp, forehead and face. There patches are very common on the cheeks.
No matter where it appears, atopic eczema is often very itchy. Infants may rub their skin against bedding or carpeting to relieve the itch.
In children of all ages, the itch can be so intense that a child cannot sleep. Scratching can lead to a skin infection.
Because atopic eczema can be long lasting, it is important to learn how to take care of the skin. Treatment and good skin care can alleviate much of the discomfort.
Factors that worsen atopic eczema
Factors that can worsen atopic eczema include:
- Soaps, bubble baths and fragranced products
- Food allergens
- Changes in heat and humidity
- Woollen clothing, blankets and carpets
- Dust and pollen
The exact case of atopic eczema is unknown. It is most likely related to a mix of factors including:
- Dry, irritated skin, which reduces the skins ability to be an effective barrier
- A gene variation that affects the skin’s barrier function. Patients often have a family history of asthma, eczema or hay fever
- Immune system dysfunction
- Infection with bacteria, such as staphylococcus aureus on the skin
- Environmental conditions
There are a variety of different treatments available, which can be applied individually or in combination with each other. These include emollients and soap substitute for use in the bath or shower, moisturisers to relieve dryness and topical steroids or immunosuppressants. Steroids applied externally to the skin reduce inflammation and itching. If applied correctly, these are safe to use.
Oral medication, which reduce the immune reaction, may also be required.