All over the world, more and more children suffer from atopic eczema, a problem that according to dermatologists is showing a sharp increase.
10 to 30% of children in industrialised countries are affected and the number of cases has tripled in 30 years! The medical name of this particular form of eczema is atopic dermatitis (often abbreviated to AD).
Symptoms generally start around 3 months of age, but can appear right at birth, or long after. This very frequent, though noncontagious skin disease can be recognised by the dry red patches on the face and body. Small blisters filled with liquid can appear and may ooze and leave scabs. And itch is intense! Not easy for a little one to deal with, nor their parents.
Keep in mind a few simple to follow tips that can greatly impact your child’s life with Eczema. Moisturize your child’s skin every day with a ultra-mild, soap free product as well as a skin repair emollient. This will help prevent and reduce the frequency of flare-ups and protect your children’s skin to help them lead a happy and active day to day life. Proper hygiene and regular skincare are your allies for a good night’s sleep. Also note that the use of adapted hygiene products containing zinc or copper helps reduce the risk of a secondary infection.
6 essential points for Atopic Dermatitis:
1. Atopic dermatitis is often difficult to diagnose, which means parents can get discouraged.
2. Atopic dermatitis runs in cycles of flare-ups and calm periods, that are more or less spread out over time. Moisturising skin with adapted products is the best way to prevent eczema flare-ups.
3. Atopic eczema is NEVER contagious.
4. It can be hereditary, as part of a family background or genetic predisposition. If you have eczema, your children are more likely to have it as well, especially if the other parent also has atopic skin. But some children can have atopic skin without it previously existing within the family.
5. Atopic eczema’s characteristic sign is skin that is very dry and porous like a sponge and that does not create a barrier to the environment. It reacts to everything – the cold, poorly chosen toiletry products, soap, perspiration, sun, dust, fabric, stress, food.
6. Infant and childhood eczema must ALWAYS be taken care of medically, even if the disease disappears in most cases before puberty.
1. Don’t wait to consult a physician if you have any doubts: Don’t hesitate to see your doctor or a dermatologist as soon as you see a suspicious rash that has all the classic signs of eczema. Also remember that there are specific atopic eczema services at hospital. Diagnosis is not always easy and can take some time. The first thing to do is introduce an eczema treatment for your child so that flare-ups are spaced out as much as possible. Also try to identify any triggering factors: heat, cold, diet, activities, clothing, laundry detergent, toiletry products… All of this information can be useful for your doctor.
Good to know
"Atopic dermatitis is not always recognised as a disease. And if there’s no disease, there’s no treatment! Too often, itchy skin isn’t associated with eczema. With the result that parents apply topical corticosteroids too late and not long enough. They know neither when to start nor when to stop."
Dr Magali Bourrel-Bouttaz, Dermatologist (France)
2. Change your habits: Your daily life will have to adapt! First, be sure to check that you are correctly using the toiletry and care products that are adapted to your child’s atopic skin: a gentle shower oil and not soap, for instance. Remember that applying a nourishing cream or emollient balm should be a daily reflex to make sure your child is comfortable. It’s better to teach them good habits for their skin from a young age, so that they can also then become independent and take care of themselves.
3. Talk about it: Atopic eczema is a skin disease that is not generally well-known. Don’t hesitate to explain the situation to your child, to help reassure them. Talk to your child’s friends, too, their teacher, daycamp counsellors, other family members. No, eczema isn’t contagious; yes, itching can be annoying and is nothing to do with a hygiene problem. Itching can also explain why your child may be agitated or change moods, due to a lack of sleep. Dermatological services in hospitals call this therapeutic education. The more your child feels understood, recognised and supported, the more their eczema will be easier to live with. Doctors have good knowledge of this skin problem. Effective treatments exist. Putting into daily practice the different tips and advice they give you will help prevent flare-ups and help you deal with eczema. They are essential for returning to a peaceful lifestyle.
4. Manage stress and fatigue: Living with eczema, and stress and fatigue often go together. Try to find a way of organising yourself so that you don’t become exhausted. Your child needs parents who are in good shape to help him/her grow and be reassured. If nights are difficult, take turns doing the night shift so that you both get a rest. You can also nap the next day. Keep eczema out of your arguments with each other. If you are a single parent, ask your family to help from time to time if you can, so that you get a chance to rest. And don’t hesitate to tell your child that you need to sleep. Take care of yourself and as much as possible give yourself moments of respite, with activities that you enjoy and that can help, including yoga, meditation, sports. If you think that you or your child need help, there is no shame in consulting a psychologist who can help you manage the situation and provide tips for daily life. As a complement to medical treatment, alternative medicines can also help with lowering stress levels at home, important when stress can also trigger a flare-up.
5. Don’t feel guilty: Don’t blame yourself. It’s not your fault. Bring a sense of proportion to the situation. It’s not always easy, but there are ways to treat atopic dermatitis and improve things. Try contacting associations for parents that can give you all kinds of advice. During times when you or your child feels down, remember what is most important. Atopic eczema is neither serious nor contagious. It’s a disease that when well treated allows a child to live a normal life, just like all their friends. Therapeutic education is there for just that reason: so that parents trust caregivers and have confidence in the treatment and in themselves.
6. Help your child in their development: Children with atopic skin often feel less good about themselves, or rejected by other children. Bring out their talents and what makes them special, which can help their self-confidence: sports, music, painting, cooking or any other activity they like. This will help them forget the itching while having fun. Spend time with them, touch and hug them, even if there are eczema patches. Maintain a tactile contact with their skin. Your child needs your help to develop a positive self-image from a very young age. Children with atopic skin often feel less good about themselves, or rejected by other children. Bring out their talents and what makes them special, which can help their self-confidence: sports, music, painting, cooking or any other activity they like. This will help them forget the itching while having fun. Spend time with them, touch and hug them, even if there are eczema patches. Maintain a tactile contact with their skin.
7. So many reasons to be optimistic: During times when you or your child feels down, remember what is most important. Atopic eczema is neither serious nor contagious. It’s a disease that when well treated allows a child to live a normal life, just like all their friends. Therapeutic education is there for just that reason: so that parents trust caregivers and have confidence in the treatment and in themselves. Two attitudes help you be effective: First, respect as closely as possible the dermatological treatment for this disease, based on three key products: a cleanser, an emollient and topical corticosteroids: For daily care, a routine using the cleanser and emollient, with specific products that are adapted to your child’s skin During a flare-up, continue the cleansing and cream routine and also apply the medical treatment as prescribed by your dermatologist.
- Be vigilant when introducing solid foods to your infant, currently recommended for starting at between four and six months.
- It's better to follow a diet that fights inflammation thanks to selected fats: raw butter, uncooked fresh cream, first cold press olive oil for cooking, first cold press canola oil for seasoning.
- Limit sugar intake, which makes perspiration more acidic: morning cereal, snack cookies and treats, candy, soft drinks
- Dealing with childhood eczema doesn’t mean your little one has to live in a bubble. They can run and play outside in the grass just like any other child, provided you take a few preventative measures first. The primary concerns when your child plays outside should be their sweat and the many foreign substances they can come in contact with. Both of these things—sweat and foreign substances—can trigger an eczema flare-up faster than you can say. Let your little one play outside in the early morning or in the late evening, but avoid the noon-day sun if at all possible. As we mentioned above, foreign substances are another significant eczema trigger. Grass is rough and prickly. And the sun can be so intense that it can almost immediately burn sensitive skin. To prevent these environmental factors from becoming an issue, apply a sunscreen and an emollient product just like you did before taking your little one swimming. The sunscreen protects against the sun’s harmful UV rays, and the emollient product protects against the foreign substances that can irritate your child’s skin..