1. What is atopic eczema?
Atopic eczema is a medical condition which refers to an inflamed, red, scaly and itchy allergic skin condition that commonly runs in the family. However, anyone can become allergic. It is common and affects about 5% of the population. It has no particular cause and is not contagious. It can start in infants of any age. Atopic eczema tends to improve when the children get older and many children outgrow it by late childhood and most by puberty. However, some patients continue to have symptoms throughout their life. The atopic eczema rash often persists in specific areas, such as the flexures of elbows, knees, face, neck, fingers and toes. It tends to be coarse, dry, rough and itchy.
2. What are the symptoms?
The affected skin is often slightly red, scaly and itchy in mild cases. It usually starts in infants on the face and scalp in small areas. In severe cases, it can cover large areas and become very itchy, weeping and crusted. This often causes young children to be very irritable and uncomfortable.
3. What are the risks?
Atopic eczema is not a dangerous disease but skin infection can occur from scratching and rubbing the itchy skin. Super-imposed infection with cold sores can produce a nasty reaction. Children with atopic eczema can develop asthma and other atopies later in life.
4. What things can aggravate eczema
- Sand, especially sandpits.
- Dust, especially dust mites.
- Soap and detergents and frequent washing with soap, especially in wintertime.
- Rough woollen clothes and abrasive surfaces, such as carpets and sheepskin.
- Scratching or rubbing skin.
- Drying preparations, such as calamine lotions.
- Extremes of temperatures, such as cold weather with low humility and heat.
- Stress and emotional upsets.
- Certain foods, such as peanuts, nuts, milk, eggs, wheat, food additives, cheese,butter & oranges.
5. What is the treatment?
a. Self-help measures:
- Avoid soap and perfumed products.
- Use bland bath oils in bath and aqueous creams, such as Sorbolene and Aquasol for skin.
- Have short and tepid showers.
- Avoid rubbing and scratching.
- Use gauze bandages with hand splints for infants.
- Avoid sudden change in temperature.
- Wear light soft, loose clothes, such as cotton clothing.
- Avoid dusty conditions and sand, especially sandpits.
- Eradicate house dust mite.
b. Medical treatment:
You should see your doctor for assessment and treatment. Antihistamine medicines can help allergies and relieve the itchiness caused by eczema. Moisturizing creams and lotions, such as Sorbolene, Aquasol, Vaseline and Johnson moisturizer lotions can also be used. Steroid cream medications can be very effective to keep eczema under control. If skin infection occurs on top of the atopic eczema, then a course of antibiotics is appropriate.