6 things you didn’t know about eczema

Itchy skin, fussy baby and a frustrated parent ― childhood eczema sure isn’t easy, so it’s good to be prepared.

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As many as 10 per cent of all infants born in Singapore suffer from eczema, a chronic skin disorder. While the exact cause of this condition is unknown and it varies in severity, it is generally characterised as an itchy, red rash on dry and inflamed skin.

“There are many types of eczema of which atopic dermatitis [AD] is more common in young children,” explains Dr Lynette Low, a Raffles Hospital dermatologist. “It is part of a group of conditions where the person has an increased sensitivity to allergens.” 

She adds, “Although atopic dermatitis can affect people of all age groups, it commonly presents in children under 5 years of age, especially in those under 1.” In fact, about 65 per cent will develop AD symptoms within the first 12 months of life. In infants, these symptoms commonly appear when they are between six and 12 weeks of age. Other atopic conditions include allergic rhinitis (also known as hay fever), asthma and allergic conjunctivitis (eye inflammation).

The good news ― eczema is treatable and not contagious. The bad news? There’s no cure, you’ll never know when it might flare up and what might trigger it. The best thing you can do, according to Dr Low, is to avoid triggers, establish good lifestyle habits and take medication when needed.

If this condition hits close to home for you, here are six more things to know about eczema.

While dry skin is a sign of eczema, it can also appear as circular patches often misdiagnosed as fungal infections.

1. Different types of eczema show up differently 

While dry skin is a sign of eczema, it can also appear as circular patches often misdiagnosed as fungal infections, says Dr Low. “Discoid eczema presents as round juicy thick rashes, while infected eczema can appear as blisters or vesicles [blister-like elevations in the skin surface that contain tissue fluid] and may look different from the usual itchy red rash.”

Also, eczema caused by allergens may look like mosquito bite-like wheals (itchy white or red lumps) or sheets of red rashes. Dr Low adds, “Children with chronic uncontrolled eczema have thick, rough patches of rashes which are a result of persistent scratching and rubbing,”

Where the skin lesions appear also depends on your child’s age. In infants, eczema is usually found on the scalp, diaper area, face and folds of the arms and legs. The wounds also tend to ooze the fluid that has escaped from blood vessels because of the inflammation. In older kids, you will often find lesions on the wrist, ankles, back of the neck and knees and the elbow area. The scabs will also be thicker and harder as a result of long-term scratching or rubbing.

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