One in five children in the UK will suffer with eczema. Eczema (also known as dermatitis) is a dry skin condition. It is a highly individual condition which varies from person to person and comes in many different forms. It is not contagious so you cannot catch it from someone else.
In mild cases of eczema, the skin is dry, scaly, red and itchy. In more severe cases there may be weeping, crusting and bleeding. Constant scratching causes the skin to split and bleed and also leaves it open to infection.
Eczema affects people of all ages but is primarily seen in children. Those who “grow out” of their eczema during early childhood may see it recur again in later life.
In the UK, one in five children and one in twelve adults have eczema while eczema and contact dermatitis account for 84-90% of occupational skin disease.
Unfortunately, there are no guarantees that a child will grow out of eczema. However, research has shown that 65% of children will be free of eczema by the time they are 7 years old, and 74% by the time they reach 16 years of age.
School or nursery should not present problems for a child with eczema if time is taken to ensure that the teachers and nursery staff have eczema explained to them and are given written information about it.
Well before the child’s first term, approach the school/nursery and speak to the teacher or staff. Explain that your child has eczema and what things can be done to manage her skin during the day. Tell the school if the child has to take antihistamines as sometimes they can make a child a little drowsy first thing in the morning.
Provide the school or nursery with a pump dispenser of her emollient. In the classroom ask the teacher if your child can have a desk away from direct sunlight or a radiator as this will help prevent the child getting too hot and itchy.
Dietary changes can be quite helpful in babies and young children, where the emollients and topical steroids have failed to control the eczema. Children under 5 are at the greatest risk of having their symptoms worsened by food allergies.
It is thought that in about 30% of children with eczema, food may be one of the causes, but a much smaller group than this (about 10%) will have food as their main or only trigger. This means that only a small number of children will be helped by changes in their diet. In other words, it is rarely diet alone that triggers eczema.
The evidence for changing diet in older children and adults is inconclusive and only a small number of adults are helped by diet and because they eat a much wider range of foods than children, finding the trigger is like looking for a needle in a haystack.
For more information please go to www.eczema.org