It’s normal for a child to get a rash at one time or another. But one common type of rash, known as eczema, can be especially troubling. Eczema refers to many types of skin inflammation, with atopic dermatitis being one of the most common forms of eczema to develop during a baby’s first year.
You may first notice signs that your child has eczema as early as one to four months of age, appearing as a red, raised rash usually on the face, behind the knees and in the bends of elbows. The rash is typically very itchy and with time may spread and lead to an infection. The patches can range from small and mild to extremely itchy, which may make a small child irritable.
While the exact cause of eczema is not known, the tendency to have eczema is often inherited. Allergens or irritants in the environment, such as winter weather, pollen or certain foods, can trigger the rash. For most infants and small children, eczema improves during childhood. In the meantime, however, parents should help reduce the triggers that cause eczema outbreaks and control the itch to prevent infection.
While there is no cure for eczema at this time, there is treatment. Talk to your pediatrician about ways to alleviate itching and reduce the rash. Minimizing how often a child scratches the rash is especially important as the more the child scratches, the greater the risk of infection.
To prevent flare-ups and help your child cope with eczema, parents should follow these tips:
- With your doctor’s direction, use antihistamine to relieve itching and reduce scratching.
- Minimize nighttime itching by having child sleep in long-sleeved clothing to prevent scratching through the night.
- Apply cortisone creams or medication to reduce inflammation.
- Use mild soaps during bathing and avoid frequent, hot baths, as they will dry out the child’s skin.
- Wrap moist bandages around the affected areas of the skin before bed to soothe and rehydrate the child’s skin.
- Avoid triggers that aggravate eczema, such as rapid changes in temperatures or seasonal allergies.
Many kids will outgrow atopic dermatitis, but it is still important to treat the condition right away to keep it from getting worse. Work with your pediatrician to find the best combination of skin care strategies and medications to ease the itch and inflammation and keep infection at bay.