#HEALTH: Getting to the root of eczema

by Meera Murugesan

ECZEMA is on the rise among Malaysians, particularly in children.

It affects quality of life and leads to disruptions in work or schooling when flare-ups happen.

According to the Dermatological Society of Malaysia, over 20 per cent of Malaysian children are affected by eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis.

It’s a common skin problem that may start in infancy, and while some individuals are able to handle it with minimal impact on everyday life, others find it a lifelong challenge.

Sunway Medical Centre Velocity (SMCV) consultant paediatrician Dr Melanie Majaham says eczema usually happens in a child who has a tendency for dry skin.

When exposed to triggers such as chemicals, sweat and heat, their skin becomes inflamed and very itchy. This results in the child constantly scratching, which further damages skin. Damaged skin is very prone to bacterial, viral and fungal infections.

“The child may be in pain, in constant discomfort and even have a fever or may require hospitalisation to get IV antibiotics and antiviral drugs,” she says.

Children with eczema can develop red, dry, itchy patches on the skin that result from inflammation. Frequent scratching can cause blisters, oozing, crusting or sores from infection.

Dr Melanie says treatment options depend on the phase of eczema. During active flare-ups, the child may need steroid-based creams which are important to reduce inflammation and break the itch-cycle. In situations where skin is infected, antibiotics and antiviral medications may be needed.

During the subacute/chronic phase where skin is merely dry, but not actively inflamed, maintenance therapy is important to prevent flare-ups. This includes the use of intensive moisturising creams that are free of fragrance and certain chemicals. The child will also need to bathe with soap-free solutions to prevent excessive drying of the skin.

“Wet skin should be patted and dried gently with a towel. Water that is too warm tends to worsen eczema,” says Dr Melanie.

Children with eczema can also develop food allergies, allergic rhinitis and asthma which is known as the “atopic march” — a natural progression of allergic diseases from infancy into adulthood.

More than 50 per cent of children with eczema develop asthma later in life, with a further 33 per cent developing food allergies with an increased risk of allergic rhinitis too.

SMCV consultant ear, nose and throat and head and neck surgeon Dr Juani Hayyan Abdul Karaf says the atopic march happens when children continue to develop inter-related allergies in childhood that begin with eczema.

“Atopy is an excessive immune response and can cause a whole body reaction.”

The atopic march starts with a skin condition, as it’s the body’s first barrier that can be breached.

The body’s response can continue and manifest later on as food allergies, allergic rhinitis and asthma.

Dr Juani says exercising regularly, spending time outdoors and soaking up Vitamin D can be beneficial for the child’s overall wellbeing. Maintaining a healthy weight and getting plenty of sleep will also help in building a stronger immune system.

Keep your child’s skin well moisturised.
Keep your child’s skin well moisturised.

Facts About Eczema

*Caused by a combination of environmental and genetic triggers.

*More common if there’s a family history.

*There is no cure.

*Heat can aggravate eczema.

*Use soap-free and fragrance-free bathing solutions which are rich in emollients.

*Organic soap is not always the answer, as it may not be moisturising enough.

*Avoid antiseptic soaps which can be too harsh.

Source: #HEALTH: Getting to the root of eczema – New Straits times

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