itchy, red, sore

OUCH: Eczema is common among South African children and babies as young as six weeks old are affected.
OUCH: Eczema is common among South African children and babies as young as six weeks old are affected.

Zinhle Mapumulo

Zinhle Mapumulo

Does your child have dry, red, itchy skin?

If the answer is yes, he or she may be suffering from eczema, which is a common problem among infants and children in South Africa. Babies as young as six weeks old are affected by this skin condition.

Its causes remain a mystery but skin specialists believe that eczema is triggered by certain allergens including food, chemicals and certain clothing.

Dr Linzy Berger, a dermatologist, believes the condition is caused by an allergic reaction. "In infants the rash is usually found on the face, neck and groin," Berger says.

"In older children it affects mainly the skin on the hands and feet and in the folds of the elbows and knees. It is a recurring condition which means that children who suffer from it will have repeated attacks."

Berger says there are different forms of eczema, but the most common forms in children are known as atopic and contact eczema.

Atopic eczema is associated with a strong family history of allergic disorders, such as asthma, hay fever or food allergies. "Contact eczema, on the other hand, occurs when a child comes into contact with certain substances such as soap, clothing (wool), animals, flowers and chemicals," Berger says.

She says the good news is that it can be treated by a strict regime of applying prescribed moisturising and steroid creams.

"Parents should avoid using bath soap but use aqueous cream as it contains glycerine which keeps the skin moist," Berger advises.

Tips to prevent eczema

l Regularly dust and vacuum your house to reduce dust mites.

l Wash your child's soft toys frequently to kill dust mites.

l Keep your child's nails short to minimise skin scratching.

l Keep to a strict skin care routine.

l Give the child lukewarm baths but don't let them stay in too long.

l Apply only prescribed moisturisers.

l Let the child wear cotton fabrics, avoid wool and rough fibres.

l Dry thoroughly after washing by patting the skin, rather than rubbing.

l Keep skin moisturised.

l Avoid the allergens that cause skin to flare up. - Additional info, tips, from Home Health