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Tips for treating eczema in children

Eczema is a common skin condition with no cure, but a customized skincare routine can control some cases. The condition affects up to 25% of children and an estimated 60% of people with eczema develop it during their first year of life.

In conjunction with October’s eczema awareness month in the U.S., the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) released a list of tips to help control eczema in children. November has been designated eczema awareness month in Canada.

Dermatologists associated with the AAD say most cases of eczema can be controlled with a proper skincare routine, which includes moisturizers, prescription medications and strategies to eliminate triggers.

“Children with eczema have extremely sensitive skin, so a proper skincare routine can go a long way in easing [the patient’s] discomfort and reducing flare-ups,” said Dr. Anna Yasmine Kirkorian, a board-certified dermatologist, in a press release. “It’s also important to begin treating [the patient’s] eczema as soon as you notice it, which can prevent the condition from worsening, making it more difficult to treat.”

Dr. Kirkorian recommends the following tips to help manage eczema symptoms and decrease flare-ups:

  1. Master bathing techniques. Bathing helps to eliminate dirt and other potential irritants from the baby’s skin. When bathing a child, use lukewarm water, and only wash the dirty or smelly parts using a mild, fragrance-free cleanser. Avoid scrubbing the child’s skin, and limit the bath to between five and 10 minutes. Immediately after the bath, apply a fragrance-free moisturizer, keeping in mind that thick creams and ointments are generally more effective than lotions or oils. Moisturize the child’s skin twice a day or as often as necessary to achieve relief.

  1. Consider topical corticosteroids. Commonly used to treat eczema, these medications help reduce inflammation and symptoms, such as itching. Topical corticosteroids come in many forms, including ointments, creams, sprays and lotions. Corticosteroids should be applied immediately after the bath and before applying the moisturizer.

  1. Identify and eliminate triggers. Everyday culprits can cause eczema to suddenly appear or worsen. Common triggers include bodily triggers, such as sweat, saliva and scratching; environmental triggers, such as tobacco smoke, dry air, pet dander, or pollen; or product triggers, such as clothing, laundry detergent, fabric softeners, shampoos or soaps (particularly ones containing fragrance) or baby powder or wipes. If the triggers are easily identifiable, try to find ways to eliminate or avoid them. For example, if a child’s saliva is triggering eczema on the face, apply plain petrolatum around the mouth before feedings and naps.

  1. Consider bleach bath therapy. Bleach bath therapy is rarely used for babies; however, if the child’s eczema is difficult to control, it can be an effective solution. Diluted bleach baths can help ease the baby’s symptoms by reducing bacteria and inflammation on the skin.

“Children with eczema are more prone to skin infections, as eczema makes it easier for bacteria, viruses and other germs to get inside the body,” added Dr. Kirkorian.

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