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Boots pharmacist Angela Chalmers helps us get to the bottom of those thorny health issues
Angela says: ‘Eczema is common in childhood, with around one in five affected. It usually appears before the age of five, but often in a baby’s first six months. And it may get worse in winter – in fact, a recent survey showed that more than a quarter of parents of children with eczema felt that a flare-up had “ruined Christmas”.
Mums and dads of long-term sufferers will know the symptoms all too well. But if it’s new to you, here’s what to look out for with atopic eczema (the most common kind): dry, itchy, cracked, sore, red patches on the hands, scalp, creases of the neck, knees and elbows, as well as the face, often in response to irritants.
The exact cause of eczema is unknown, but low humidity levels in winter are thought to be a trigger for flare-ups. Atopic eczema sufferers tend to already have dry skin and the dry air can mean it’s more likely to react to triggers, making it red and itchy. For similar reasons, central heating could be a factor, too, so in the colder months, use a humidifier to help combat any drying effects.
The best way to soothe the symptoms of eczema-prone skin is to use a moisturiser every day, which will help lock in hydration
The best way to soothe symptoms is to use a daily emollient (moisturiser) to help lock in hydration after bathing (using a soap substitute formulated to help prevent skin irritation). Skin should also be moisturised regularly, even when there are no symptoms, as this should help to prevent flare-ups. However, if self-help techniques and over-the-counter treatments don’t stop these occurring, visit your GP, who may prescribe a topical steroid to help ease the inflamed skin.
Eczema can be very distressing for young children, who will scratch the affected area, making the problem worse. Reward them for not doing this with a sticker chart, and always keep their nails short to help avoid further damage. Also, gently tapping their skin with your fingertips can help to soothe the irritation. Unfortunately, there’s no cure for eczema, but it usually becomes less severe as children get older. In the meantime, try to avoid known triggers (see below) to help prevent flare-ups.’
Help prevent itchy and scratchy!
Skin Gentle Eczema Balm, £14.50/1,450 points (60g), is specially formulated for babies. It forms a barrier to help lock in moisture and keep out nasties that can irritate your little one's skin.Add
As cute as they look, novelty festive knits (whether made from wool or a synthetic material) can trigger a reaction. So stick to soft, fine-weave fabrics or natural, breathable materials such as cotton, which tend to be gentle against skin.
It might not make you popular this Christmas, but keep an eye on their junk-food intake. A study found that cakes and sweets may increase symptoms. Keep a food diary to see if your child might have dietary allergens – common watch-outs are milk, eggs and nuts.
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