My baby has eczema — help!

It’s a nasty and itchy condition — and quite common in Singapore where 1 in 5 children may have it…


It looks like a rash and your baby is scratching furiously and feeling miserable. So, you bring him to a doctor, only to be told “ah, eczema, it’s quite common here” and you’re given some cream. But what exactly is eczema and why do we get it?

1) Dry, red, itchy rashes

From ancient Greek, “eczema” meant “boil”, explains Dr Tan Siew Kiang a dermatological specialist at Raffles Skin & Aesthetics, “It is used to describe red, dry, itchy skin which can sometimes become weeping, blistered, crusted, scaling and thickened.”

Adds dermatologist Dr Neoh Ching Yin, of Specialist Skin Clinic & Associates, “An inflammation of the skin is sometimes referred to as dermatitis. It affects one in five school-going children; one in 10 persons get it at some point in their lives. It is the most common chronic inflammatory skin condition here.”

2) It runs in the family

Dr Tan says,Eczema tends to run in families, especially in those who have strong family history of atopy.” “Atopy” refers to the inherited tendency to develop allergic reactions such as asthma, sinusitis, rhinitis and eczema. These involve an over-active component of the patient’s immune system ― for instance, a defect in the skin’s barrier allows allergy-causing substances to enter the skin, causing itch and inflammation.

           Atopic eczema usually starts in the first few months of life but it may also develop for the first time in adulthood. There are a few sub-types — such as discoid eczema, which usually affects young adults, and old-age eczema, which affects middle-aged or elderly patients,” she says.

            Above all, you cannot just “catch” it.

"Eczema affects one in five school-going children; one in 10 persons get it at some point in their lives."

3) It looks bad and did we mention? It ITCHES.  

“The main symptom is itch,” says Dr Tan. In fact, your child is probably constantly scratching and rubbing at the itchy areas, leading to the redness and even swelling in the area, darkening of the skin and causing the body to react by itching more. “Itch can be severe enough to interfere with sleep, causing tiredness and irritability. This can have an enormous impact on the whole family.”

            She adds, “Frequent moisturising is the mainstay of treatment as well as the most important treatment for all patients with eczema.” Wash with a gentle soap or bath oil and apply moisturiser several times daily to help the outer layer of the skin function better as a barrier against the environment.

          Doctors can also prescribe antihistamines to ease itching.

Photo: INGimage

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