Pediatric Eczema Care

Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children (RMHC) at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center has partnered with National Jewish Health for Kids to offer diagnostic and treatment services for children with respiratory, allergic and immune system disorders. Our pediatric respiratory and allergy clinic services are provided by nationally-recognized National Jewish Health for Kids physicians, collaborating to provide on-site care at the family-focused, full-service RMHC.

This unique collaboration brings together two exemplary pediatric programs to meet the increasing needs of parents and their children for treatment, including eczema.

What Is Eczema?

Because young skin is so sensitive, most kids develop a rash from time to time. Eczema refers to a number of different conditions that cause skin to become inflamed, red or sore.

Roughly one out of every 10 kids will develop eczema with symptoms occurring within the first few months of life, and most often before a child turns five. Eczema is not contagious, so there's no need to keep a child with eczema away from siblings or other children.

Eczema Causes

The most common cause of eczema is atopic dermatitis, which can affect infants (infantile eczema) as well as older children. Eczema occurs in children who are overly sensitive to allergens in the environment, such as pollens, molds, dust, animal dander and even certain foods. Children may be more likely to get eczema if a parent has hay fever, asthma or other allergies. Due to genetic predisposition, about half of children with eczema will also develop hay fever or asthma. While eczema is not an allergy itself, allergies can trigger it.

Eczema Symptoms

Eczema symptoms can vary during its earliest stages. As early as two to six months of age — and almost always before age five — eczema symptoms manifest as itchy, dry and red skin. Small bumps may also form on the cheeks, forehead or scalp and may spread to the arms, legs and trunk.

Eczema symptoms tend to vary over time. When children attempt to relive itching by scratching the affected area, symptoms can worsen and eventually lead to thickened, brownish areas on the skin.

How to Diagnose Eczema

Due to the unique combination of eczema symptoms that can differ in severity, diagnosing eczema can be a challenge. While no test can definitively diagnose eczema, your doctor will likely examine the distribution and appearance of the rash, as well as gather a thorough medical history that includes family history of allergies, medications your child is taking and how long the rash has lasted.

To rule out other conditions that cause similar eczema symptoms, your doctor may need to see your child more than once. Your doctor may also recommend sending your child to a dermatologist or an allergist for further testing and a more accurate diagnosis.

Your doctor may also ask you to eliminate certain foods from your child's diet, switch detergents or soaps, or make other changes to find out whether something in the environment is contributing to the skin irritation to help make a proper diagnosis.

How Long Does Eczema Last?

The good news is that more than half of kids with eczema will be over it before their teenage years. In many cases, eczema goes into remission with symptoms disappearing for months or even years. For many kids, it begins to improve by the age of five, while others may have flare-ups throughout adolescence and into early adulthood.

Steps to Help Your Child

While there is no way to prevent eczema, taking some precautions can help keep it under control. Take steps to avoid possible triggers, such as:

  • Pollen, mold, dust and animal dander
  • Dry skin
  • Certain harsh soaps, detergents and fabrics
  • Certain skin care products, perfumes and colognes
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Select foods (dairy products and eggs, wheat, soy or nuts)
  • Emotional stress
  • Excessive heat and sweating

Always encourage your child to avoid the tendency to scratch to prevent more severe skin damage or an infection.

How to Treat Eczema

Your doctor may prescribe one of the following for your child’s eczema treatment:

  • Topical corticosteroids, also called cortisone or steroid creams or ointments
  • Non-steroid creams or ointments
  • Antihistamines
  • Oral or topical antibiotics
  • Ultraviolet light therapy

You can also start treating skin allergies by establishing a healthy skin-care routine, including:

  • Avoiding frequent hot baths and scented soaps
  • Using warm water with mild soaps or non-soap cleansers
  • Avoiding excessive scrubbing and toweling
  • Avoiding harsh or irritating clothing
  • Applying moisturizing ointments, lotions or creams regularly
  • Eliminating known allergens, such as certain foods, dust or pet dander

When to Call Your Doctor

Children with eczema are prone to skin infections. Call your doctor immediately if you notice any of the early signs of skin infection, including:

  • Increased fever
  • Redness and warmth on or around affected areas
  • Pus-filled bumps on or around affected areas
  • Areas on the skin that look like cold sores or fever blisters

Call your doctor if you notice a sudden change or worsening of the eczema, or if it isn't responding to recommended treatment.

Feel free to contact us at (303) 322-2203 for more information on eczema, respiratory, allergic and immune system disorders.