Eczema may be a more common problem among our children than we might think. Eczema associated itch has a grave impact on the daily quality-of-life of the young suffers and their parents and caregivers. With the help of four leading medical specialists in the area of eczema management, theAsianparent aims to shed light on this baffling disease, so parents can learn coping strategies to help their child with troublesome symptoms of eczema.
In Singapore, one in five children suffers from this chronic inflammatory skin condition¹ characterized by an itchy red rash often affecting the face and scalp of young infants, while favouring the skin creases such as folds of elbows or behind the knees in older children². For some these symptoms are just a minor inconvenience, but for others living with eczema is a major ordeal.
More often than not, the child will not know why or how their ordeal even began; studies show eczema can be pinpointed to family history or genetics and that there is no known cure for the condition². Heredity is a big factor in whether or not an infant gets eczema. If mom or dad have eczema, a baby is a lot more likely to develop it, too.
In most children, symptoms often improve by age five or six. Once children hit their teenage years, more than half no longer have eczema flare-ups³. However, more than a decade of dealing with eczema can be stressful for both the child and the parents. Fortunately, there are many ways to keep eczema under control, and one key element is to repair the damaged skin barrier that is commonly found in eczema sufferers.
Although there is no known cure for eczema, parents can prevent or reduce flare ups in their children by avoiding common triggers of eczema⁴:
1) Dry skin. This is often caused by low humidity, especially following prolonged exposure to air-conditioned environment. Dry skin result in damaged skin barrier, and left unrepaired it will allow allergens and irritants to enter leading to itchy, inflamed skin.
2) Irritants. Think scratchy wool clothes, perfumes, body soaps, and laundry soaps. These can all trigger a child’s eczema flares.
3) Stress. Eczema symptoms like itch and inflammation could worsen when an eczema sufferer undergoes excessive stress. On the emotional front, children with eczema often deal with teasing and bullying because the symptoms of eczema are so visible. These can lead to self-esteem issues and affect the child’s social interaction with friends.
4) Heat and sweat. Both heat and sweat can worsen eczema associated itch.
5) Physical allergens. Allergens like house dust mites, which are microscopic insects found in bedrooms and soft toy, are common culprits for eczema flare-ups.
What do allergens and skin barrier have to do with eczema?
Plenty, it seems. According to recent clinical studies done, a dysfunctional skin barrier plays an essential role in eczema⁵. The skin, which is made up of specialized lipids that seal moisture in, is key in defending the body from external stressors. These stressors could come from the environment in the forms of allergens as well as use of harsh highly alkaline soaps, friction, sweat, scratching and infection².
Using the right skincare products to repair skin barrier
Apart from avoiding allergens, repairing the skin barrier is a key step to managing childhood eczema. This can be achieved by moisturising the skin with topical emollient products, regularly⁶. It is important to choose a good moisturiser to repair the skin and provide long lasting hydration.
Doctors often recommend skincare products labelled “non-irritating” and “fragrance free” that eczema sufferers can apply twice a day. A good emollient (or moisturiser) is one that is fragrance–free with ingredients that mimic the lipids already present in the skin. Examples of such ingredients include ceramides and squalene. An example of such an emollient is Physiogel® Cream, which helps in repairing the damaged skin barrier for longer lasting hydration⁷.
Besides using a good moisturiser, eczema sufferers should choose cleansers that are soap free and hypoallergenic, instead of using regular soaps as the cleansing agent. These gentle, non-foaming cleansers contain syndets (synthetic detergents) that do not strip the skin of its protective moisture barrier and are pH neutral. One example is Physiogel Cleanser, which is a gentle cleanser that thoroughly cleanses yet retains the skin’s natural moisture balance⁸, ⁹.
Get educated on eczema
With this quick introduction on eczema, we have only skimmed the surface of this skin disease. For more situation-specific symptoms and solutions by our expert panel of specialists, stay logged on to theAsianparent for the rest of this special four-part series on “Eczema and Your Child”.
This series has been brought to you by Physiogel® and theAsianparent.
¹ Chan Y-C, et al. Annals Academy of Medicine Singapore. 2006;35(11):794-803.
² Sugarman JL. Semin Cutan Med Surg. 2008; 27:108-114
³http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/eczema/eczema-allergies-link last accessed 6th March 2013
⁴http://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby-eczema-questions-answers last accessed 6th March 2013
⁵Eric L. Simpson et al. J Am Acad Dermatol 2010;63:587-93
⁶ Kam-Lun Ellis Hon et al. China Journal of Dermatological Treatment. 2013; 24: 7–12
⁷Stiefel data on file
⁸Refer to Physiogel Cleanser packaging
⁹Di Nardo A, Pepi P, et al. G Ital Dermatol General. 1992; 12:39-43
*The content above is for educational purposes and readers should consult their own doctor if they have further enquiries.
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Physiogel ‘The Essentials of Skin Care’ Series
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