Could my child have eczema?

What is eczema?People use the word eczema to mean different things. Medically, eczema refers to a group of non-contagious skin conditions that cause skin itch, swelling, and irritation. Types of eczema include seborrheic dermatitis (dandruff, infant "cradle cap") and contact dermatitis (poison ivy, diaper rash). Atopic dermatitis is the most common kind of eczema, especially among infants and children. About half of children with atopic dermatitis will outgrow the condition. The good news for the other half is that although flare-ups will happen, atopic dermatitis tends to become less severe as a child gets older.

What are the causes and risk factors for eczema?Unlike contact dermatitis, in which skin reacts to the touch of an irritant or allergen, the cause of atopic dermatitis is not completely known or understood. A child is more likely to have the atopic dermatitis variety of eczema if he or she has asthma or other seasonal or food allergies or if family members also have eczema.

What are the symptoms of eczema? The most common symptom of eczema is itchy skin, although the itch may come and go. In fact, a person with eczema may scratch their skin up to 1,000 times in any given day, earning the condition the nickname "the itch that rashes." The rash crops up as pink or red bumps – or a crusty patch if the skin is scratched too often. Eczema can appear on any part of a child's body but seem to be more prevalent on areas of skin that stretch and crease - the elbows and knees, for instance. An infant may experience eczema rashes on their cheeks and around their mouth.

Are there any complications of eczema? An infant or child who continually scratches itchy skin can break the skin and be at increased risk for infection. Scratching can also keep a child up at night, affecting sleep, which can in turn impact mood and concentration. When school-age children have the visible red lesions of eczema, it may cause anxiety and bring on teasing or bullying. And the fuss and side effects of medications and caring for the skin can be exhausting. Stick to your treatment and self-care plan: research has shown that sticking to treatment will improve your child's outcome and possibly reduce the need for medication in the future.

Is there a link between eczema and food allergies? Children with eczema are prone to having other types of allergies, including hay fever and food allergies. However, it is unlikely that eliminating a specific food from your child's diet will make a direct difference in their eczema symptoms.

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