What I Learned About Eczema from an Educational Handout
After a recent visit to the allergist to determine how Catherine’s allergies may be connected to her eczema, we were given an educational handout about atopic dermatitis in children. I took it home and read through it. First I read all the topic headings to decide if there was information that might be new to me. Then I skimmed the content in each section to see if this handout would help me understand more about eczema. I decided that it was worth a closer read, after all it was written by the National Eczema Association and published recently in 2015.
We all lead such busy lives, so I’ll highlight below some of the information I got from the educational handout.
Eczema is part of the atopic triad
Atopic dermatitis is categorized under atopy, which is used to describe the allergic conditions of asthma and hay fever. Asthma, hay fever, and eczema are referred to as the “atopic triad.” Eczema often affects people who either suffer from asthma and/or hay fever or have family members who do. Since there is a hereditary connection with eczema, as long as a parent has asthma or hay fever, the child has a higher likelihood of eczema. In other words, the parent does not need to suffer from eczema for their child to have the disease.
Most common trigger factors that affect almost every child
Almost all children react to the following most common trigger factors for eczema.
- Dry skin – People with eczema have trouble keeping their skin moist. It is particularly difficult in the winter when the air is dry and the humidity drops.
- Irritants – Irritants can be anything outside the body that causes burning, redness, itching or dryness of the skin.
- Stress – Stress in children may be presented as frustration, anger, or fear.
- Heat and sweating – An increase in temperature or sweating may lead to itchiness. In children, this may occur after they’ve been physically active, from too many layers in bed, or rapid changes in temperature from cold to warm.
- Infections – Certain types of infections will exacerbate a child’s eczema. These infections include bacterial “staph” infections, molluscum contagiosum, herpes such as cold sores, and fungal infections.
- Allergens – Food allergies, asthma, and hay fever may lead to flare-ups.
Avoiding other trigger factors
- Keep the skin soft and flexible by moisturizing often.
- Wear soft clothes that are “breathable”. Avoid fabrics of wool, nylon, or stiff materials that may be irritating.
- If heat and sweating causes itching, try to keep cool. Layer clothes and adjust to temperature changes to cool off. During bedtime, don’t overheat rooms and wear light clothing. Reduce physical activity during times of flare-ups to avoid sweating.
- If itching occurs, take a cool shower. Moisturize within three minutes after gently toweling dry.
- Address allergens by reducing or eliminating the child’s exposure. For food allergies, find a nutritious food substitute linked to their eczema.
- Reduce stress by teaching children about ways to cope with stress-causing events.
I reviewed this information with my daughter. She’s 8 years old, so she’s becoming more independent every day. I felt the best thing I could do for her was educate her about her skin disease, what her triggers are and may be, and how she can feel better. I will always be around to help her whenever I can, but one of the best management options for her eczema is to learn how to take care of herself. Encourage children to do what they can on their own to treat and address their eczema. Most of all, teach them to be their own advocate if they are uncomfortable or feel itchy.
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