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When Is It Time To Seek Help?

We have a lot of experience with atopic dermatitis at our house. I had a severe flare-up that led to a diagnosis when I was around eight or 10. My kids have both had it — to varying degrees — since infancy. Generally, regular monitoring and moisturizing is enough to see us through. Sometimes, though, we still need to call in the professionals for help.

Red flags you may need help

Knowing when that time has arrived makes treatment easier, quicker, and less costly. Here are a few red flags that it may be time to seek help:

  • Your usual home care routine has stopped working;
  • Flares are coming more frequently and lasting longer than normal;
  • The skin is significantly redder and flakier than usual;
  • The skin has red spots or patches that appear “different” than usual;
  • Your child is itching so badly that he or she is breaking the skin (this can lead to serious infections); and/or
  • Your child can’t sleep due to irritation and itchiness.

Any of the above flags are a sign that you may need assistance from a qualified doctor or dermatologist. Sometimes, a particular flare needs a more aggressive (read: prescription) treatment. Other times, there is something else going on in addition to eczema. In either case, it’s a good idea to seek help.

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The last time my daughter’s skin got really bad, I noticed she had unusual red spots mixed in with her usual flaky patches. She also was itching badly and regularly breaking the skin. Her entire arms looked red and inflamed. When I took her to the dermatologist we learned that she had a secondary infection — from an entirely different thing — in addition to her eczema. The two issues were exacerbating each other.

The dermatologist gave us a prescription ointment to use after my daughter’s showers and before moisturizing, and a topical antibiotic to use at night. Within a week, her arms were back to normal, and we were able to reinstate our typical home care routine. If I hadn’t taken her into the doctor, we likely would have been dealing with those issues for months.

Who to call

If you aren’t sure where to get help, you can always start with your regular family doctor or your child(ren)’s pediatrician. If you already have a relationship with a dermatologist, start there. (It’s usually cheapest and less time-intensive to go straight to the specialist if your insurance allows it.)

If you don’t have insurance or a family doctor, there are a number of free nurse lines you can call to discuss your children’s health. You can conduct a Google search for "free nurse lines" which will give you several examples. You also may try using one of the newer online doctor apps and virtual websites. Many of these sites can treat you or your child virtually, including prescribing and sending medications, all for a flat fee of less than $50 — no insurance required. Virtuwell is one such service.

Many people, especially those without the condition, tend to see atopic dermatitis as a non-serious health condition. While those of us living with it know it’s more than that, we can still fall into the trap of thinking treatment requires little more than home care and vigilance. Sometimes, as in the case of infection, that just isn’t true. Getting the extra help we need, when we need it, protects us and our family and enables us to get things back to a manageable level quickly.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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