Childhood eczema affects around one in five children in the UK. winter is often the worst time for flare-ups causing dry, itchy, sore, cracked, red and very uncomfortable skin. All my children have suffered with eczema and it can be very worrying, especially if it stops your child sleeping. we asked GP Dr George Moncrieff, Chair of the Dermatology Council of england, for his top tips on dealing with eczema.
LOOK OUT FOR TRIGGERS
“There are many environmental factors that aggravate eczema. In the winter the air is drier, not helped by central heating, and this makes eczema worse,” says Dr Moncrieff. Other triggers such as detergents, soaps, bubble baths and shampoos can be controlled somewhat. I certainly found one of my kids’ eczema flared up when I changed washing power. “when a person uses a harsh detergent, the skin surface can take up to 48 hours to recover. In the meantime, the natural skin barrier is weakened and there is a high risk of infection. eczema is itchy and scratching further damages the skin encouraging infection.” Don’t wear woollen clothes next to the skin as it can be uncomfortable and cause irritation.
HOW TO TREAT IT
“Hit it hard, get control and don’t stop too quickly,” advises Dr Moncrieff. People suffering with eczema should continue treatment for a few weeks after the symptoms have cleared, to make sure the skin barrier has recovered. Use an emollient cream such as Diprobase that is free from sensiters like sodium Lauryl sulphate, parabens and fragrances which may make the skin even more irritated. And use it routinely, rather than just when there is a flare-up to keep the skin in good shape.
Use an emollient that is dispensed through a pump. “extracting an emollient by sticking fingers in to a pot of cream or ointment rapidly contaminates it and the next time it’s applied to the skin, it coats the skin with bacteria.” Apply the cream by smoothing it on in the direction of the hairs, rather than vigorously rubbing onto the skin. And finally, don’t be afraid to use lots.
Be sure to discuss with your GP the prescription you are given and the quantity to use. “People can be afraid of using too much of emollients or steroids, which leads to using too little.”