Eczema isn’t caused by one single thing. “It’s a multifactorial disease caused by interactions between your genes and the environment, as well as your body’s immune system,” says Dr Rachael Teo, specialist in dermatology and consultant, Raffles Skin & Aesthetics.
Dr Elisa Villa, a specialist in allergy and clinical immunology at Maggiore della Carita University Hospital in Novara, Italy, also shares: “Research show that 20 to 30 per cent of people with eczema lack a protein called filaggrin, which maintains epidermal stability and helps skin retain water. Filaggrin deficiency is caused by a genetic mutation.”
Here’s how to help your child:
- Moisturise Often
“Your child should apply a liberal amount of moisturiser to eczema-prone areas at least twice a day or as frequently as required to restore the skin barrier and keep itching at bay,” notes Dr Chan Yuin Chew, a dermatologist at Gleneagles Hospital. Do this right after showering, while his skin is still wet. “If your child goes swimming, he should slather on a thick layer of moisturiser before enterting the pool and shower immediately after a swim,” adds Dr Teo.
- Use Suitable Skincare Products
“Use cream- or ointment-based moisturisers and gentle, soap-free body washes whenever possible. And avoid formulations with perfume or fragrances,” recommends Dr Teo.
- Wear Comfortable Clothes
“Refrain from wearing clothes made of rough, scratchy fabrics, such as wool or synthetic fibres, which can irritate the skin,” says Dr Chan. Dr Villa adds that you should opt for light-coloured cotton clothes, as well as use a mild cleanser like Marseille soap to wash his clothes. “It is pH-neutral and additive-free,” she says.
- Keep Fingernails Short
“Encourage your child to keep his fingernails short and file them smooth at all times, as this helps reduce skin damage from scratching,” advises Dr Chan. If he scratches a lot during the night, consider getting him lightweight gloves to bed.
- Keep Sweating To A Minimum
“Sweat is induced by heat or exercise and can dehydrate the skin and make eczema worse,” observes Dr Villa. So where possible, keep Junior cool in a well-ventilated or air-conditioned room, and shower immediately after exercise.
- Seek Medical Treatment
“Your child’s doctor may prescribe topical corticosteroid creams and oral antibiotics to reduce skin inflammation,” says Dr Teo. In addition, Dr Villa shares that “dietary supplements, such as probiotics, vitamin D and omega-3, have also proven helpful in managing eczema”. But consult a doctor before giving any of these to your child. If your child’s eczema fails to respond to these treatments, his doctor may recommend a light therapy.
- Watch Out for Food Allergies
“While food allergies do not cause eczema, they can sometimes aggravate its symptoms. If Junior’s itching worsens or he experiences any gastrointestinal or respiratory discomfort after consuming certain foods, consult his doctor immediately,” recommends Dr Chan.
- Support Your Child
“Eczema is more than just a physical condition – it’s a psychological one, too,” says Dr Villa. “For instance, the itchiness that accompanies eczema may keep your child awake at night and disturb his sleep. This may make him more tired and anxious during the day. And given that the symptoms of eczema are highly visible, it may also affect his self-esteem.” Says Dr Chan.
Text: Delle Chan, Simply Her, February 2016 / Additional Reporting: Sylvia Ong