^

A Blog from Your Kaiser Permanente Pediatricians in Northern California

Girl applying cream to her arm

The News About Eczema

It sounds like the old riddle about a newspaper – what’s black and white and read all over? – but a bit different. What’s red and itchy and dry all over? Eczema!

Eczema can be explained simply by saying it’s chronic, sensitive, dry skin. If your child has eczema, accepting the chronic nature of it can help. Think of it like another chronic condition, asthma. It’s part of your child for now (some kids do grow out of it) and while we can’t make it go away, you can keep it under control.

Kids with eczema have more sensitive skin. The eczema may lessen when you carefully avoid using bath and laundry soaps with scent or dyes. Skip the fabric softener. Wash all clothes, bedding, and towels the same way.

Most kids with eczema don’t have food allergies. If they do, the allergic reaction to a specific food is pretty clear – it increases soon after it’s eaten. If you suspect an allergy, talk to your pediatrician about testing.

To control the dryness, be sure to lubricate your child’s skin from head to toe twice a day. You should think of skin as one big organ – don’t just spot treat but lube your kiddo all over. Use the greasiest product they’ll put up with. Petroleum jelly is a great option – except few kids go for it! Lots of kids hate lotions, but you might try different products (without dye or fragrance) to find one they’ll accept. Avoid food-based oils – like coconut oil. These can trigger worsened eczema in kids with sensitive skin!

I recommend looking at their skin twice a day. Areas that are flared up – that look redder or constantly scratched – need a medicine before the moisturizer. For mild eczema, you can try over-the-counter (OTC) 1% hydrocortisone cream. Apply it to the bad patches, wait a few minutes for it to soak in, then spread on the lotion. If hydrocortisone cream hasn’t helped after a week, talk with your pediatrician (no need to head in to the office – just schedule a video visit). No matter what medicine – prescription or OTC – be sure to use it for no longer than your doctor recommends, as some of them can cause damage with prolonged use.

Eczema is often super itchy, so follow the above steps for relief. In the meantime, consider using an OTC oral antihistamine for kids over 4. Look for a nondrowsy version for the daytime (like Claritin or Zyrtec) and a sedating one (like Benadryl) at night. For younger children, check in with your doctor first. It’s important to stop the itch, since the more one scratches the itchier skin gets. If a kid is scratching, they can break the surface of the skin and cause infections. It also helps to keep their nails trimmed very short.

Finally, if all this fails and your child still has uncontrolled eczema, please let us know. There are more treatments and medicines we can use – no child should be red and itchy and dry all over!

Find more resources for parents
My Doctor Online:
Eczema
Over-the-Counter Allergy Medications: Pediatric Dosing Guide

If you have an emergency medical condition, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital. An emergency medical condition is any of the following: (1) a medical condition that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity (including severe pain) such that you could reasonably expect the absence of immediate medical attention to result in serious jeopardy to your health or body functions or organs; (2) active labor when there isn’t enough time for safe transfer to a Plan hospital (or designated hospital) before delivery, or if transfer poses a threat to your (or your unborn child’s) health and safety, or (3) a mental disorder that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity such that either you are an immediate danger to yourself or others, or you are not immediately able to provide for, or use, food, shelter, or clothing, due to the mental disorder. This information is not intended to diagnose health problems or to take the place of specific medical advice or care you receive from your physician or other health care professional. If you have persistent health problems, or if you have additional questions, please consult with your doctor. If you have questions or need more information about your medication, please speak to your pharmacist. Kaiser Permanente does not endorse the medications or products mentioned. Any trade names listed are for easy identification only.

Disclaimer: If you have an emergency medical condition, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital. An emergency medical condition is any of the following: (1) a medical condition that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity (including severe pain) such that you could reasonably expect the absence of immediate medical attention to result in serious jeopardy to your health or body functions or organs; (2) active labor when there isn't enough time for safe transfer to a Plan hospital (or designated hospital) before delivery, or if transfer poses a threat to your (or your unborn child's) health and safety, or (3) a mental disorder that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity such that either you are an immediate danger to yourself or others, or you are not immediately able to provide for, or use, food, shelter, or clothing, due to the mental disorder. This information is not intended to diagnose health problems or to take the place of specific medical advice or care you receive from your physician or other health care professional. If you have persistent health problems, or if you have additional questions, please consult with your doctor. If you have questions or need more information about your medication, please speak to your pharmacist. Kaiser Permanente does not endorse the medications or products mentioned. Any trade names listed are for easy identification only.