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Does your child have eczema?


Unlike a common rash that gradually goes away, eczema is a persistent condition that results in red, irritated and itchy skin. Continuous scratching may cause infected yellow crusts or bumps on the skin.
According to Robert Roberts, MD, an immunologist and allergist and director of the UCLA Skin Allergy/ Eczema Clinic at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA, eczema can be uncomfortable both physically and emotionally for children.
However, parents can take steps to relieve symptoms using topical solutions, antibiotics and other practical strategies.
Eczema is not contagious, and children typically outgrow the condition by adolescence, although some people may have it throughout their lives. According to the National Eczema Association, eczema affects 10 percent of infants and children in the United States.
Eczema can flare up when cells in the skin over-react to common triggers, such as:

  •  Dry skin
  •  Irritants (including household chemicals, such as laundry detergent, soaps or certain fabrics)
  •  Stress
  •  Heat and sweating
  •  Infections
  •  Allergens (including pollen, mold, dust, animal dander)
  • Conservative therapy    

    The first step is to remove or reduce irritants in the household that may be the cause of flare-ups. For example, switch to a mild laundry detergent designed for sensitive skin. Also, advise children to avoid, when possible, getting sweaty and to wash their hands only when necessary.
    When bathing, children should use only a small amount of mild soap with cool to warm water. Soaking in a tub for 10 to 20 minutes can help the skin absorb water. Afterwards, children should dry off and apply a chemical free, non-fragrant moisturizer or petroleum jelly to help seal in moisture and reduce itching.
    A pediatrician or dermatologist may prescribe stronger topical creams if the over-the-counter remedies are not effective.
    A widespread rash and extreme itching marks severe cases of eczema. Dr. Roberts recommends that children with severe eczema meet with an immunologist or allergist who will take a complete medical history and run a series of diagnostic tests, including environmental and food allergy tests. If the child is found to have allergies, an allergist or dietician can provide guidance about how to avoid these irritants.

    Severe cases

    When appropriate, more intense therapies may be prescribed, including high potency topical steroids or antibiotics to eliminate bacteria in the skin and therefore reduce the risk of infection.
    For children with severe eczema, symptoms are more than skin deep. “Children with eczema – especially those with eczema on the face – may experience teasing by other children at school,” Dr. Roberts says. This added stress can lead to sleep and concentration problems and, in some cases, emotional issues.
    Physicians at the UCLA Skin Allergy/Eczema Clinic include immunologists, allergists, dermatologists and nutritionists who work as a team to isolate the cause of a child’s eczema and help him or her to manage the condition. For more information on medical therapies as well as a support group for children with eczema, contact rroberts@mednet.ucla.edu or call (310) 825-6481 or (310) 825-6777.

    This information is provided courtesy of the pediatricians at the Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA. UCLA Health pediatricians are conveniently located in your neighborhood. In addition to our Children’s Health Center in Westwood, we have offices in Brentwood, Culver City, Manhattan Beach, Santa Monica, and West Los Angeles. See list of physicians by location or for more information call 1-800-UCLA-MD1 (1-800-825-2631).

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