Eczema in Children
by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Eczema is an inflammation of the outer layers of the skin. This inflammation leads to a red, itchy, and scaly rash. The eczema rash may be present for a long period of time or it may come and go. It is common in children.
Eczema rash is caused by inflammation that causes skin irritation and damage. This inflammation is caused by an overreaction of the immune system. It is not known exactly why the immune system has this reaction, but is thought to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Eczema is more common in children who are of African or Asian descent.
Other factors that may increase your child's chances of eczema:
Irritants that can initiate flare-ups include:
Eczema usually begins at 3-6 months of age. It may improve over time, usually by ages 5-7 years. For some children, the condition may continue into adolescence and early adulthood.
The eczema rash may be present for a long period of time or it may come and go. It can appear anywhere on the body or in just a few areas that may vary by age. Symptoms may include:
You will be asked about your child’s symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. The diagnosis is made by the appearance and location of the rash. Your child may be referred to a specialist.
There is no cure for eczema. Treatment is focused on managing symptoms.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for your child. The main goals of treatment are to:
Treatment options may vary. Your child’s doctor may recommend more than one depending on your child’s condition.
Irritation of the skin can start or worsen flare-ups. Dry skin is one of the most common culprits. Steps to help decrease dry skin and flare-ups include:
Skin infections and irritations need to be treated right away. The longer the inflammation remains, the more damage is done.
In some cases, medication may also be needed to manage flare-ups or symptoms:
Infections may also need to be treated with oral or topical antibiotics.
If skin care and medications are not effective, light therapy may be used. This therapy exposes the affected skin to specialized light. Treatment options may include:
Eczema is difficult to prevent, especially if there is a family history. To help reduce your child's chances of eczema:
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
National Eczema Association
Canadian Dermatology Association
Caring For Kids—Canadian Paediatric Society
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Last reviewed November 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
Last Updated: 12/20/2017
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