Eczema affects over 30 per cent of children before they reach school age and 1-3 per cent of adults in the UK. It is likely that its frequency in Ireland is similar to the UK. It is very often inherited. There is very often a link with asthma and hay fever. Eczema has become more common in recent years, the cause of this is uncertain. Triggers include specific allergies to foods, overheating, infection, wool next to the skin, cat and dog fur, soaps, detergents, house dust mites and pollen. Extreme hot and cold, humidity, and hormonal changes in women (caused by the menstrual cycle and pregnancy) can also cause a flare-up.
The initial approach to treatment of atopic eczema involves the avoidance of exacerbating factors and hydrating the skin. Exacerbating factors include excessive bathing, low humidity environments, dry skin, exposure to solvents and detergents and emotional stress. Avoiding these factors is beneficial for acute flare ups and long term management.
In adults, food allergies do not appear to be a factor in eczema so avoiding foods is not any benefit. In infants, avoidance of certain foods can be helpful. Common food triggers include eggs, nuts, peanut butter, chocolate, milk, seafood and soya.
Tips for parents
I discussed moisturising and treatment options for eczema over the last three weeks in the Examiner; this advice is all true for children too. I will just give a few tips for parent to complete this article. A moisturising cream or ointment is best applied after bathing when the water content of the skin is greatest, and at night to prevent drying. The frequency of application should be increased to at least three to four times a day when the eczema is active. For whole body application, 250g per week may be required in children and 500g in adults. In order to avoid diluting the steroid and spreading it to areas of skin where it is not required, moisturising creams should not be applied immediately after the steroid. Steroid creams and Protopic® ointment are best avoided in the presence of infection. When using Protopic® ointment, avoid exposing skin to the sun. Weepy or crusted areas are a sign of infection so you should seek treatment immediately. House-dust mite is a common triggering factor for eczema, but unfortunately reduction in dust mite levels needs to be significant before a benefit is seen. Even with daily dusting and vacuuming, the improvement to eczema is likely to be minimal.
Free Eczema skincare consultation at our Eczema Clinic this weekend
Whelehans Pharmacy offer free Eczema skincare consultations at our Eczema Clinic this Saturday May 27th with skincare expert Trish Wallace. Learn how to reduce redness and irritation and how to reduce frequency of flare-ups. Whelehans offer a range of effective products that give clearer skin in a safe and effective way without the need for stronger and potentially damaging prescription medicines like steroid creams. Book your free appointment; call Whelehans at 04493 34591 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.