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Kids, Allergies, and Eczema

Eczema is not always caused by an allergy, but the two often go together. About 10% of babies and young kids have eczema. Here's what you need to know about allergies and eczema in your kids, along with advice on how to treat them.

Eczema Facts

  • Eczema symptoms include a dry, itchy, scaly, red rash. It may ooze and crust over, especially if your child scratches it.
  • Eczema is common on the arms, elbows, legs, knees, hands, and face.
  • The rash can be quite irritating. It can make it hard for kids to sleep.
  • Soaps and cosmetics, cleaners, wool, dust mites, pollen, pet dander, and dry weather can cause flare-ups.
  • Eczema won't spread from one part of the body to another, or from one person to another.
  • Eczema in kids often fades. Most babies with eczema outgrow it by the time they're teens, and usually earlier.

Eczema and Allergies

  • Kids with allergies -- especially to foods like milk and peanuts -- are more likely to have eczema.
  • Having parents with allergies or asthma increases a child's risk of eczema.
  • Kids with eczema have a higher risk of allergies and asthma later in life.
  • Avoiding allergic triggers can help with symptoms of eczema.

Treating Eczema and Allergies

If your child has symptoms, see a doctor. The good news is that there are lots of ways to control eczema and allergies

  • Testing. Your doctor may want to test your child for allergies to foods -- like milk, egg, peanut, soy, and wheat -- and other substances.
  • Food elimination diets. If your doctor suggests it, cutting out common trigger foods, one at a time, could help you figure out if a food is the culprit.  
  • Ointments and moisturizers. For mild eczema, using thick ointments and moisturizers can ease symptoms. Put them on right after your child gets out of a bath or shower.
  • Medication. Antihistamines and steroid creams may help relieve more severe symptoms.

Avoiding triggers and reducing irritation are also important for controlling eczema.

  • Allergy-proof your home, so your child won't be exposed to high levels of things like dust mites and dander.
  • Keep the skin moist. Dry skin can trigger eczema.
  • Keep fingernails short. That way, your child is less likely to irritate her skin by scratching. Put socks on your baby's hands to stop scratching when she's asleep.
  • Keep your child cool in summer. Hot weather and sweat can make symptoms worse.
  • Use non-scented soaps. Avoid harsh cleaners. Chemicals can irritate the skin.
  • Dress your child in soft, loose-fitting, cotton clothing. Avoid wool and nylon.
  • Reduce stress. Strong emotions, like anger and fear, may trigger eczema.
  • Protect your child from dry, cold weather. Dress your child warmly when it's cold (but don't overheat). Use a humidifier in the winter when the air is dry.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on November 12, 2012

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