by Dr Yuheng Zhou
With the changing weather, the constant handwashing and use of alcohol gel and antibacterial sprays, eczema has been affecting a lot of people. It is a common condition, affecting 1 in 5 children in the UK, and it is seen usually first in primary care by your GP. Some patients require referral to paediatric or dermatology outpatient clinic. Others may even require inpatient treatment. It can start in early infancy and continue throughout adulthood.
It is important to look after your skin at all times of the year, as it is the biggest organ in your body and vital part of your defence system.
What is eczema?
This is a non-contagious, inflammatory dry skin condition often running in families. There are many different types of eczema, but the most common is atopic eczema. The need to scratch can be overwhelming, and especially difficult to control in young children! Flare ups can result in red, cracked skin that is sore, and open to infection. This can lead to a deteriorating ‘itch –scratch cycle’ – we need to break this cycle to manage eczema effectively together and to improve quality of life.
- Changes in weather
- Allergies in environment ( e.g. dust/ pollen)
- Allergies in food
- Household irritants (e.g. soaps/ cosmetics)
- Stress and hormone changes
What are the treatment options?
Reducing exposure to triggers
Emollients : these are moisturisers, to prevent dryness of skin. Pump bottles are best to avoid dippings fingers in pots. Ointments contain more oil than creams so can be greasy but is more effective for very dry skin. Lotions contain the least amount of oil but can be less effective. Creams are in between. Check ingredients to avoid allergens.
Steroid creams: these are by prescription of varying strengths and reduces inflammation in flare ups.
Treating infection: this may require antibiotics or antiviral medication. Signs to watch out for are: oozing of fluid, yellow crusting on skin, fevers, pain or swelling, or if the rash changes in appearance – be sure to see a doctor or nurse for review.
Specialist treatments : by dermatologist including specialist medications/bandages or body suits/UV light.
Emollients: use liberally! Smooth in the same direction as hair grows. Some children will need new applications every few hours.
Steroids: ensure emollient has soaked in at least 30mins before applying steroid cream. We follow the Finger Tip Unit method (FTU).