Common ailments

Eczema

My 10 month old little girl has developed very dry skin behind her ears and on the inside of her elbows, and the skin is starting to look quite red and sore. I am worried that she might have eczema.

It does sound as though your little girl has the symptoms of eczema. Eczema is quite common in babies and young children and tends to be noticeable in a child before their first birthday. Inside the elbows, around the face or behind the knees are common places for eczema to start.

Various things may have contributed to your child developing eczema. Often the condition can be inherited. Do other family members suffer from eczema or other associated conditions, like asthma or hay fever? It can be the result of an allergy to, for example, pollen, house dust mites, pet fur, wool or common household products (such as perfumed soap, washing power/fabric conditioner or air freshener). It is worth considering whether there is anything obvious that she might have come into contact with that she can avoid. In many cases however it is not possible to find a removable cause.

Eczema causes the skin to turn a red colour and become very dry and itchy. It can also cause the skin to crack and perhaps even bleed.  Eczema usually flares up when the skin is very dry, it comes into contact with irritating substances or allergic triggers, or when the skin is infected.

Eczema is often itchy and there will be times when your child cannot help scratching the affected areas. Scratching however can aggravate the skin and increases the risk of the eczema becoming infected. I would therefore suggest you keep your baby’s nails short to minimise damage to the skin from scratching.

Generally, children with eczema find their symptoms naturally improve over time. Nevertheless, I would advise that you visit your GP who will be able to examine the affected areas and make a diagnosis. They may also prescribe a topical ointment to reduce swelling and redness, and an emollient to treat the dry skin. Sometimes, an antibiotic is also needed if the skin is very red, cracked and weeping.

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