Eczema is very common in children.
Australian research shows up to one in five children develop eczema.
By: GOOD SKIN CLINIC
Eczema has often been called the “Itch that Rashes” rather than the “Rash that Itches”. This ongoing, constant itch can be described as an “Itch-Scratch-Cycle” – this makes eczema very different from many other skin conditions.
There are many factors involved in the “Itch-Scratch-Cycle”. The itching is usually triggered by higher levels of histamine which leads to irritation on the skin. When the individual then scratches the skin, more histamine floods into the area and the itch is exacerbated, leading to more scratching, and so the cycle perpetuates itself.
This process leads to the appearance of the characteristic rash and eventual skin damage. Over time it becomes a habit and people may be completely unaware that they are doing it.
The scratching leads to inflammation of the skin, and the risk of infection when the skin is broken. People with eczema have a compromised skin barrier; genetically their skin’s normal defenses are limited. This is made worse by dry skin which has lost the protective oil barrier which normal people have. Scratching is a big concern in eczema, as it predisposes to infections from pathogenic organisms (such as staphylococcus aureus). When an infection on the skin sets in, bacterial toxins infiltrate the skin which can then aggravate the condition even more.
Chronic itching in children can lead to insomnia, irritability, anxiety and stress. In extreme cases it can lead to significant excoriations (open, deep scratch wounds) or even severe lichenification (chronic thickening of the skin) and pain, as well as the risk of severe systemic infections.
Parents often ask “How can I stop my child from scratching?” As scratching is an instinctive reaction to itchiness, that question is not an easy one to answer.
Parents can help by keeping their child’s nails short and clean, and covering hands with cotton mittens, especially at night when
unconscious scratching can occur. With older children, it is important that parents explain to them how scratching will actually make them feel worse, not better, and that their skin will become more red, more itchy and more uncomfortable.
Children with eczema are sensitive to heat; therefore it is important to ensure they do not overheat at night which can lead to an attack of scratching and a restless night!
Become aware of any developing habits of scratching which your child may be developing, and take note when it occurs, for example at night, during an activity or just watching TV. It is important to break the habit once parents are aware of them. One way to do that is to apply a helpful cream just before “that” time the child will start to scratch, in an effort to stop the “itch” before it starts. Care must be taken not to overuse any prescribed creams.
Unfortunately there is at present no cure for eczema. But there is hope, and there are treatments. A number of treatments introduced in the recent past have come a long way in managing the discomfort of eczema. These treatments can work to manage eczema symptoms once they have already appeared. There are also clinically proven alternative treatment protocols which really work.
For more information contact the Good Skin Clinic on 9770 5337 or go to www.goodskincare.com.au