Eczema in Children – Atopic Dermatitis
I had never heard of eczema before having children. I have always had sensitive skin but never anything close to what my children have gone through with Atopic Dermatitis. Having my children experience this condition has been frustrating to say the least. My husband and I had so many questions about how to treat eczema. It has been hard to watch the kids go through something as irritating and sometimes painful as eczema.
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What is Eczema?
Our doctor first described eczema to us as the itch that rashes, as opposed to the rash that itches. We later read that eczema is caused by the body’s autoimmune response. Typically, there is an allergen or irritant that sets off a chain of events that leads to the itch causing irritated skin. In severe cases, the skin can welt and bleed, especially if poorly treated. Unfortunately, the actual allergen/irritant is rarely discovered in eczema sufferers.
How Common is Atopic Dermatitis?
According to the National Eczema Association roughly 3.2 million children have moderate to severe atopic dermatitis. That is roughly 33% of American children. Female children are far more impacted than male children.
Why Do Children Get Eczema?
The exact cause of eczema is unknown. However, researchers have found that genes do have an impact on whether a child develops eczema as well as the
environment which they live. A history in families with seasonal allergies/hay fever and asthma also raises the risk of children developing this condition.
Environmental factors for eczema flare-ups:
Pet dander, Pollen, Dust, and other allergens
Dry or cold environments (symptoms are often worse in Fall and Winter)
Lotions, perfumes, hand sanitizers, harsh soaps, chlorine, and chemicals
Lack of natural sunlight (vitamin D deficiency)
Clothing that is tight fitting, irritating, wet, or not breathable
Laundry Detergents and Dryer Sheets
Stress or anxiety
What Can You Do About It?
This is the question we asked ourselves for years. Eight plus years ago there weren’t a whole lot of options out there to treat this condition. Here’s what we have found:
Hydrocortisone cream – This worked great short-term but has shown to have permanent negative effects. Our oldest daughter was prescribed this to help with the flare-ups. It worked well for minor flare-ups… however, after less than one year of use, it permanently thinned and bleached her skin. Once we noticed the side effects, we stopped using it completely.
Lotions – These are almost 100% unusable, even when the bottle says “For Eczema”! Any product with cetyl alcohol is a no go for eczema sufferers. In infant, baby, and children’s products you will most likely find this ingredient listed somewhere. It does not matter how far down the list it is listed, it will have a negative effect on your child’s skin. We learned this the hard way. After complaints and many cried tears because lotions were hurting instead of helping, we learned to avoid products containing cetyl alcohol.
Milk – Dabbing the affected area with milk and letting it sit has actually calmed flare-ups in both of our children. This worked wonderfully when our youngest daughter was covered from head to toe with eczema as an infant. It works great if you’re in a pinch and need something fast. Most milk is enriched with vitamin-D and we have watched moderate flare-ups clear up before our eyes with 5-minutes of milk on hands, arms, or face.
Calendula lotion – After hours of research we found this first aid lotion and tried it. It worked amazing. Within a few hours our children’s eczema would disappear. The only downside was that if your child has a really bad habit of scratching and tearing their skin, this product can sting a bit. It’s also great for treating burns as well!
Vitamin D – Make sure your child is getting enough Vitamin D. This vitamin not only helps retain your skin’s healthy glow but it also helps build your immune system. Also, research has shown that children that suffer from eczema have low levels of Vitamin D in their system.
Allergy medications – Antihistamines such as Claritin work great to help manage eczema during extended flare-ups. We always have the worst flare-ups in the Fall and Winter. We found by treating their eczema with allergy medicines, the skin didn’t respond as strongly, or most rashes could be prevented.
Humidifier – Humidifiers can combat the dry air and provide comfort to eczema sufferers night and day. We recommend having one in your child’s room during the Fall and Winter seasons to manage flare-ups on your child’s skin and help them sleep comfortably.
What to Take Away From This
Stay away from alcohols in your child’s lotions for eczema. It is counterproductive and only causes them pain.
Pay close attention to what doctors prescribe and recommend – understand the long term effects and how this may impact your child(ren).
Learn what may cause flare-ups in your children by paying attention to their environment and change what you can. Use dye-free and gentle detergents, cover skin in the winter, and keep their skin moisturized with an alcohol free lotion.
Talk to your doctor about getting your child on a Vitamin D supplement. It has many benefits and improving their immune system is a big plus.