Eczema is a recurrent dry and scaly, itchy skin rash found mainly in infants and toddlers. For infants, the rash is found usually on the cheek but it can appear on the limbs, the trunk and around the joints. For older children the rash is seen mainly in the elbow joints, and behind the knees.
What causes it?
It is an inherited condition hence it runs in families.
How is it detected?
Eczema is detected by its appearance. There can also be a family history of similar rashes in the patient’s siblings, and the patient usually shows signs of an itching and persistent dry and scaly rash.
Can it be prevented?
Prevention is hard because the condition is genetic. However, there are certain factors that tend to make it worse, for example, certain fabrics like acrylics, soaps, detergents, citrus fruits, and animal proteins. These allergens should be eliminated from patient’s environment. Different children react differently to these factors, hence one needs to identify what factors worsen the rash for the particular child and avoid them.
Does it have a cure?
There is no cure for eczema. Fortunately the condition disappears spontaneously in majority of children as they grow up.
What is the treatment for eczema?
Avoid substances that worsen the condition. Creams or ointments containing steroids are used when the rash becomes severe. Antihistamines like piriton are also taken to reduce the itching.
What are the side effects of the treatment?
Prolonged use of creams or ointments containing steroids will lead to thinning of the skin, hirsutism and skin becomes lighter. If steroids are applied over a large surface area, they are absorbed into the blood stream- and may cause some side effects.
What care should be given to a child with eczema?
Avoid the substances mentioned above that tend to worsen the condition. Use oils like olive oil, which help to keep the skin moist.
Is it infectious?
No. eczema is not infectious.
Can a child with eczema be immunised?
Yes. Children with eczema should receive their vaccinations, according to the recommended schedule, just like any other infant.
Dr Kituyi Adelaide is a Consultant Paediatrician at Afya Royal Clinia. Uchumi Ngong Hyper. Mezzanine Floor, Ngong Road.