Eczema is a persistent, itchy, red rash on the skin that often occurs in childhood. In fact, The Nemours Foundation reports that as many as a tenth of all children will develop eczema at some stage. It is in your best interest to understand what eczema is and how to reduce flare ups if your child is prone to outbreaks.
Eczema is often used to refer to a variety of skin issues, but it technically refers to the standard red rash with a persistent itch. Sometimes, scratching can cause scabbing and swelling. Repeated scratching can even cause skin thickening and darkening.
Most kids who get eczema as infants or very young children will notice marked improvement by early school age. In many kids, by the time they reach high school, they no longer have any more flare ups. Unfortunately, some people continue to struggle with eczema symptoms even into adulthood, though the symptoms become less intense.
Is There a Relation Between Eczema and Allergies?
Although there is no formal medical connection between eczema and allergies, the two do co-exist in many situations. There are many different factors that can influence the relationship between the two, and understanding that may help you determine the cause of your child's reaction.
One of the connections found between eczema and allergies is related to a genetic defect that leads to a lack of filaggrin, which is normally present in the skin. It's a protein that protects the skin from germs. When the skin's filaggrin is limited, it can leave it vulnerable to both germs and allergens. This may leave your child more susceptible to allergies.
Sensitivity to Allergens
The skin barrier vulnerability caused by eczema may actually cause the body to become oversensitive to allergens. The prolonged exposure to various allergens leads your body to produce excessive amounts of chemicals that can cause inflammation.
Your child's body may produce excessive amounts of antibodies as a result of the eczema. The antibodies most likely produced are Immunoglobulin E, which plays a key role in allergy responses. The more of this antibody that's present in the blood, the more intense the allergy response is likely to be. If your child has an intense allergy response, this antibody may be the reason why.
Identifying and Avoiding Allergy Triggers
If your child's eczema is intensified by allergies, it's in your best interest to identify the allergens that trigger those flare ups so that he or she may avoid them. Here's a look at some of the steps you can take to help with that.
Create a Journal
Track everything that your child eats and comes in contact with in a journal. In addition, make a note of every flare up, including the severity and how you treat it. Over time, you'll see a pattern that will help you identify triggers.
Avoid Skin Irritants and Allergens
Take precautions to keep your child's skin protected from irritants like harsh soaps, detergents, perfumes and abrasive fabrics. Sensitive skin and intense allergies are a bad combination, so the more proactive you can be to reduce these irritants, the better.
You'll also want to try to keep your child away from some of the more intense allergens, like dust, pet hair, pollen and other substances. Keep the dust and dirt at a minimum by vacuuming frequently and put dust covers on your mattresses and pillows.
Don't Discount Food Allergies
Food allergies are a common cause of eczema flare ups, so talk with your child's pediatrician and a dermatologist if you believe that he or she has food allergies. The sooner you know if your child has an allergy, the sooner you can deal with it and limit the risk of eczema outbreaks.
With the routine care of a dermatologist such as Desert Dermatology, you can keep eczema flare ups at bay. You'll need a regular lotion regimen and balanced nutrition for your child to combat these issues.