Kids Health: Understanding Excema

The triad of asthma, allergies, and eczema is very prevalent in our community. I’m certain each of you personally deals with one of these three problems, or knows a family member or friend who does. So, over the next three months we’re going to discuss each of these medical problems in more detail, starting with eczema this month.

Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a dry, red, itchy rash; and although it can look pretty bad, it is not contagious. This is becoming more common in pediatrics, and about 90% of children with eczema have symptoms before they turn 4 years old. Many of them outgrow the condition before adulthood, but unfortunately there is no reliable indication as to which children will outgrow it and which children will continue to have lifelong eczema flare ups.

Eczema is more common in children where there is a family member who has one or more of the allergic triad. Unfortunately, this rash is not a one-time problem. Once you get eczema under control, it can return again– days, weeks, or even months later. Sometimes you’re able to identify a trigger like milk, pollen, grass, or dust that makes this itchy rash appear, but oftentimes the cause is unclear.

In the event you’re able to identify eczema, there are a few things you can do to treat the rash:

  • Keep the skin moisturized.
  • Avoid scented soaps and lotions. These often worsen eczema, so free and clear detergents, unscented soaps, and petroleum jelly-based lotions like Eucerin or Aquaphor can be a great start for preventing eczema flare ups.
  • Take shorter baths in lukewarm water.
  • If you can only moisturize once a day, try to do so immediately after getting out of the bathtub.

For more severe eczema, your doctor may prescribe topical steroids or antihistamines to be used intermittently with flare ups. The rash can be so itchy that it is difficult to sleep, so Benadryl or a stronger oral medicine may be helpful. Steroids are very effective, but should not be used longer than about one week at a time, so preventative measures are key to controlling this irritating condition.

Mild eczema is often treated at home with over the counter creams. However, if you eczema is becoming more problematic for you or your child, be sure to ask your pediatrician for advice, or seek a consultation with a dermatologist or allergist.

Jennifer Adair M.D.

Jennifer Adair, M.D., was born and raised in Mobile. She graduated from Davidson High School in 2002 and received her Bachelor of Science in Chemistry at The University of Alabama in 2006. She completed her medical training at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, and pediatric residency at the University of Nevada College of Medicine – Las Vegas and the University of South Alabama. She joined Children’s Medical Group in July 2013 and currently practices at their Airport office. Jennifer and her husband, Cory, reside in Mobile with their dogs, Fitz and Barkley.