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Tips for eczema and dry skin

We see eczema flare up at this time of year due to the cooler temperatures. Read below to find out how you can help care for your child’s dry skin.

What is eczema?

Eczema is an inherited form of very dry skin.  It is often seen in those who also have allergies or asthma.  It can be present in infants, children, and adults.  Usually, by teenager years, eczema is much improved or resolves.  It is not an allergy but can be made worse by exposure to allergies. Unfortunately, eczema is a chronic condition, but there are many things that can help improve symptoms.  We encourage you, your child, and your provider to work together and make a plan to keep your child’s eczema well controlled. 

Signs and Symptoms

Those with eczema present with very dry skin, mostly noted on the flexural surfaces (in the elbow and knee creases).  Sometimes the patches of dry skin are circular and other times there are more widespread patches of dryness.  The dry skin is often very itchy, and this may affect ability to sleep well.  When skin is itched we can occasionally see bacterial skin infection occur. 

How is the diagnosis made?

Through a detailed history of symptoms and evaluation of skin, your provider can determine if eczema is present. 

Prevention and Treatment

The mainstay of treatment is keeping skin well hydrated and preventing exacerbations. There are a few helpful tips below from our local Specially For Children Dermatology office.

  • Keep bath time short. Longer time in the water dries out skin, which can worsen dry skin.
  • Use as little soap as possible during baths and make sure it is fragrance free and hypoallergenic
  • After bath, pat the skin dry and then immediately apply a moisturizer to all skin. Again, make sure the moisturizer is fragrance free and hypoallergenic.
  • Reapply moisturizer often. Dermatologists recommend that you apply at least 5 times per day!  Suggestions for moisturizers are below.
  • Use laundry detergent without dyes or perfumes. It is also helpful not to use fabric softener.
  • Swimming in a pool with chlorinated water will dry skin; follow the steps above after swimming.

It is also important to avoid allergens and other environmental factors that make your child’s eczema worse.  These could include pollens, dust, mold, smoke, animal dander, dry cold air, excessive heat, skin care products that contain alcohol, and certain fabrics (such as wool).

When these steps are not enough, talk with your provider who may recommend medications for itching and/or a steroid cream to help with eczema flare-ups.

How to choose soap and moisturizer

Soaps:

  • Use as little as possible during baths and make sure it is fragrance free and hypoallergenic
  • Soap brands most often recommended by our local dermatologists include: Dove Unscented, Basis, Purpose, and Cetaphil
  • When soap substitutes are preferred by families, our local dermatologists recommend Cetaphil, Aquanil, and Moisturel (please ask for directions if you are using a soap substitute)

Moisturizers:

  • There are 3 kinds of moisturizers: creams, ointments, and lotions.  Those with lower water content (creams or ointments) work better for eczema.  Though ointments usually work best, they are challenging to use often because they are thick and greasy. We often recommend using ointment at bedtime and a cream during the day. 
  • Assure moisturizers are fragrance free and hypoallergenic
  • Brands most often recommended by our local dermatologists include: VaniCream (cream), CeraVe (cream), Eucerin (cream), Moisturel (cream), Cetaphil (cream), Dermovan (cream), Aquaphor (ointment), and Vasoline petroleum jelly (ointment).

Other Information

If your child’s eczema is not improving, or is worsening, talk with your provider about your concerns.

AUTHOR

PAA Advance Practice Providers

Our PAA APP’s include: Amber Mercer, Annie Croft, Bridget Shen, Brooke Gonzalez, Caitlin Whiteman, Courtney Dudley, Emily Woodard, Emma McCarty, Erin Moore, Keena Chung, Lauren Karnesky, and Pam Dietrich