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Avoiding Eczema

Updated on November 7, 2008


Eczema is an itchy skin rash that tends to recur and persist over months and even years. It occurs usually in certain characteristic areas of the body. In the infant, the cheeks are almost always affected, with red and weeping eruptions. Scabs (crusts) and scratch marks are also part of the characteristic appearance. The arms, legs, and neck are frequently inflamed as well. In older children, the face is usually spared. The rash described localizes on the inside of the bends of the elbows and knees, the neck, and the forearms. If the condition continues for any length of time, the skin is likely to become thickened and hard in areas where scratching has been most intense.

Itching is the distinguishing symptom of eczema, and scratching aggravates the rash. Scratching leads to further itching and a vicious cycle develops. If you suspect a child of having eczema, even if the condition seems very mild, be sure to discuss it with your doctor or nurse. In the meantime, rubbing alcohol (may sting) will relieve the itching. Medication such as antihistamines can be taken by mouth to counteract itching. Woolen and rough synthetic fabrics are best avoided and a change from your present soap to one made with a super fat base may be in order.

Children with eczema should not receive smallpox vac­cinations without special precautions because of the danger of severe allergic reactions affecting the entire body.


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