Above all else parents just want their kiddies to be happy and healthy. Imagine the emotional impact of discovering your little one has eczema, wishing nothing more than to take away the irritation and itching.
Finding her feet in effectively treating her teen and baby girl’s eczema was rocky in the beginning for a Kimberley mother of three, Racquelle Mabindisa (38). Her son, Bhekisizwe (13), and daughter, Zandi (9), were diagnosed when they were babies.
Sithembile Zikalala (32) from Mkhondo, Mpumalanga, says her son, Bandile (6), had fish-like skin, which caused him a lot of irritation and itching. “His skin looked like he had dandruff,” she says.
How eczema is diagnosed
Dr Nomphelo Gantsho, a dermatologist in Cape Town, says eczema is an inflammatory skin condition that results in red, dry, itchy skin. Eczema is not a condition that discriminates, and affects people of all ages and ethnicities.
She adds that eczema most often develops due to an allergic reaction, a dysfunctional skin barrier, or an immune-system malfunction.
Eczema is most prevalent in children and can continue into adulthood or even make its first appearance in adulthood. Gantsho provides comprehensive dermatological care for all ages as well as aesthetic procedures.
Parents act to find solutions
According to Gantsho, eczema usually appears as a red rash on the skin and can include the following symptoms; raised crusty patches, oozing, dry or scaly skin, itching, and skin discoloration.
Zikalala says that she used to hydrate her son’s skin with an over-the-counter aqueous cream and one from the clinic, but neither of them helped.
“At first I didn’t realise it was eczema. I believed it was a baby rash, so I went back and forth to clinics trying to find assistance, but to no avail. It was difficult for me; I couldn’t sleep because my son kept scratching and his sores were bleeding.”
It was her sister who pointed out that her son had the same condition as her niece. “Bandile now bathes with Pure Soap and moisturises with pure glycerine, and in the summer, he uses a lotion prescribed by his doctor to combat the heat,” she says.
Just when Mabindisa thinks she has her children’s eczema under control, a visit to a friend’s house or family ruins her efforts. “As kids get older, the sleepover requests come in and that has made it difficult because I have to send a child with a list of instructions,” she laments.
“My daughter’s is more sensitive; I must mix her lotion with a steroid cream called Advantant. It should, however, be used with caution because it thins the skin.”
Find what works for you
Eczema is also called dermatitis and severe cases can result in skin bleeding and crusting over in the folds of the arms, back of the knees, wrists, and hands.
Gantsho says that it is believed that 10% of the population at any one time suffers from some form of eczema. The most common forms of eczema include the following:
- Atopic dermatitis: Gantsho explains that is caused by abnormal functioning of the body’s immune system, the lack of filaggrin and an abnormal skin barrier.
- Contact dermatitis: This happens when the skin comes into contact with an allergy-producing agent or an irritant, such as chemicals. Coming into contact with a trigger, such as wind or an allergy-producing fabric, launches the rash and inflammation, says Gantsho.
- Dyshidrotic dermatitis: This type of eczema strikes the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. It produces clear, deep blisters that itch and burn.
- Dyshidrotic dermatitis occurs most frequently during the summer months and in warm climates. It can be as a result of contact allergy dermatitis.
- Seborrheic dermatitis: Seborrheic dermatitis is a common condition that causes yellowish, oily, and scaly patches on the scalp, face, or other body parts.
Dandruff in adults, and cradle cap in infants, are both forms of seborrheic dermatitis. Unlike other types of eczema, seborrheic dermatitis does not necessarily itch. It tends to run in families.
No treatment is the same
Gantsho says that every patient is different, so specific treatments will vary. The best treatment for eczema may be prevention. “By avoiding triggers such as certain soaps or detergents, patients may be able to keep outbreaks at bay.
“One should also use mild cleansers and always keep the skin well moisturised. Also avoid scratching the rash (which can lead to infection) and situations that make you sweat, such as strenuous exercise,” she says.