It's a Skin Thing

By 2020-06-28 10:51:42

Dr Sherry Liu, a dermatologist at Shanghai Jiahui International Hospital offers professional insight into childhood eczema and how to remedy it

‘Eczema’ is a group of conditions that cause inflammation of the skin, and can appear on any part of the body. Eczema is a chronic problem for many people and can appear at any age. It’s most common in infants with a family history, but many outgrow it before adolescence.

Typically, eczema causes skin to become itchy, red, and dry - even cracked and leathery. In the first 6 months of age, eczema usually appears around the face, cheeks, chin, forehead and scalp, and often appears red and weepy (produces a clear fluid). In babies 6-12 months old, eczema often appears on the elbows and knees, because these areas are often scratched or rubbed while the baby crawls. Toddlers aged 2-5 years are likely to have it in the folds of their elbows and knees, as well as on their wrists, ankles, hands, mouth and eyelids. Children over the age of 5 also have it in the creases of their elbows and knees, but it can some- times appear only on the hands. In fact, at least 70% of people will have eczema on their hands at some point in their life.

Potential causes of eczema include: factors that affect the skin’s barrier function (i.e. dry skin or genetic mutations), and immune system dysfunction that causes an unwanted inflammatory response in the skin. Certain substances or conditions called trigger factors can cause eczema to flare up (i.e. become worse). These trigger factors include irritants such as soaps and detergents, wool, skin infections, dry skin, low humidity, heat, sweating or emotional stress, and allergens such as dust mites, pollen, moulds, or foods.

It can be hard to discern eczema from other common skin conditions. If your child has patches of dry, flaky and even angry red skin, make an appointment with a doctor to check. In the meantime, here are some home remedies that should help:

  • Moisturise the skin at least twice a day until any scaling disappears.
  • Take a warm bath using a small amount of soap, and avoid very hot water.
  • Wrap the affected area in damp cloths.
  • Keep your child’s fingernails short to prevent skin damage from scratching and have them wear light comfortable gloves to bed if scratching is a problem at night.
  • Medications like steroid cream and oral antihistamines can be used per patient conditions.

Speak with a doctor if the remedies described above prove ineffective, as they can offer prescription treatments when appropriate.

Eczema usually gets worse in winter, when the air is cold and dry, but flare-ups may also occur during transitional seasons, i.e. spring and autumn, as temperatures fluctuate greatly from day-to-day. Try to make sure your home isn’t too hot, and use a humidifier if the air grows dry.


Dr Sherry Liu
Dr Liu received her PhD in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery from the Shanghai Ninth People’s Hospital and has over 10 years of experience in dermatology.

Shanghai Jiahui International Hospital
Phone: 400-868-3000