Soothe Your Child’s Itchy Skin

If your child experiences patches of irritated skin that seem to come and go, eczema may be the cause. Fortunately, there is a lot you can do to ease the discomfort.

Also called atopic dermatitis, eczema is common among children—at least 10% have it, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. During an eczema flare-up, dry, red, scaly skin can appear on many parts of the body, from the head and neck to the legs and ankles. Typically, eczema first appears in babies, toddlers, and young children.

“Parents often ask whether eczema is contagious and whether it will go away as their child grows up,” says Kunle Onade, MD, a Dermatologist at OakLeaf Clinics. “Eczema is not contagious, but unfortunately, there is no cure for it, so our goal is to prevent and treat flare-ups. For some children, eczema disappears by their early school years. Others see a resurgence of eczema as teenagers and may have to continue managing the condition as adults.”

Treat the Skin

A pediatrician or pediatric dermatologist may recommend a moisturizing cream or gel to help dry skin, or a steroid cream to reduce redness and swelling. An oral antihistamine may be needed to help tamp down itching.

Actions you can take every day may make a big difference in your child’s quality of life. Help your child avoid allergens that can trigger eczema flare-ups, such as pollen and mold, and ensure the clothes you buy are soft and loose to allow airflow around the skin.

“Heat can irritate the skin of children with eczema, so they should bathe or shower using warm water, not hot,” Dr. Onade says. “Parents should enforce rest and water breaks during playtime to keep children from getting too hot.”

 Watch for Infections

Your skin keeps viruses and bacteria out of your body, but in many children with eczema, this defensive barrier has a weakness. That is because their skin lacks a protein that strengthens the outer layer and leads to eczema, making it easier for germs to gain access and cause infections, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Children with eczema are prone to two viral skin infections, molluscum and herpes. Molluscum causes round, raised bumps with a white center that often occur on areas of dry skin caused by eczema. Herpes causes blisters that also tend to appear where eczema is present.

Look for these signs of skin infection:

  • Redness
  • Warmth
  • Blisters or bumps
  • Yellow scabs or crust

A fever is also an indicator of infection. If you spot any of these signs, contact your pediatrician.

If your child shows symptoms of eczema or a skin infection, a pediatrician can diagnose and treat it, or refer you to a pediatric dermatologist, if necessary. To find a pediatrician, visit HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital or HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital.

You may also be interested in “See a Primary Care Physician for Better Health.”