While our winters here in Southern California are not exactly harsh, it can still get very dry. We do live in a dry environment to begin with, and the cold dry air only makes it more difficult. For patients with eczema, a common allergic skin condition, dryness can make eczema far worse.
Eczema is commonly seen in young children, even in the first few months of life, and it’s characterized as a red itchy rash. Young children often develop patches of eczema over their cheeks and often in the “folds” of their arms, legs, or neck. In adults with eczema, their hands and feet are most often affected.
I mentioned above that eczema is itchy. This tends to be an understatement as eczema is EXTREMELY itchy. It can keep patients up at night, and some individuals will even scratch in their sleep.
So what causes eczema, and how do you treat it? Well, there are many causes, but the most common include allergies to “inhalant allergens,” e.g. pollens, dust mite, pet dander and other allergens that we inhale as we breathe. Food allergies account for about 15-20 percent of eczema cases in children, so the majority of kids with eczema do not suffer from food allergies. Both inhalant and food allergies can be diagnosed with skin and/or blood testing, and I have experience with both. If you want to learn more, just give me a call or make an appointment.
The hallmark of treatment is moisturizing and treatment to calm the immune response that creates the redness and itching on the skin. Moisturizing is accomplished by bathing daily, sometimes twice daily, for 10-15 minutes in warm water. After the bath it’s important to apply a medicated cream or ointment to the affected skin, and moisturizer to the unaffected skin. Keeping the moisturizer and medication separate isvery important as mixing them can weaken the medication.
Sometimes medications are needed as well, and the most common class of medications are topical steroid creams/ointments. The word “steroid” can be scary for parents, but keep in mind that these are topical only, and are not being absorbed by the entire body as with oral or injected steroids.
Ultimately, with proper testing and treatment eczema can be controlled. It is a chronic illness, however, and can affect some children into adulthood. Most children “outgrow” their eczema by kindergarten, and those who have it as adults often have more mild symptoms.
I hope this information is helpful for you, and if you or your child suffers from eczema, let me know and I will be happy to help! www.davidsonallergy.com