Many a parent has fought the battle against a little one’s eczema and felt like they’d never win. The constant yelps of “stop scratching!”, the family slippery dip-style injuries after bathing the kids in oils, and the painful, cracked skin are not high on the list of treasured family memories. To help us de-mystify this common ailment, we put out a cry for help to Consultant Dermatologist Dr Mark Tang, and he answered the call: he filled us in on how to tell if your child has eczema, plus how to prevent and treat it as naturally as possible.
Dr Mark Tang is a fully accredited Consultant Dermatologist with more than 20 years of clinical experience. In Singapore he’s known as an opinion leader on eczema, as well as other skin diseases, wound healing, and skin cancers. He’s often the first port of call as an invited speaker and faculty member for conferences and advisory boards, both locally and overseas. Needless to say, we pounced on the opportunity to pick his brain! Here’s what he had to say in response to common questions about eczema in little people:
1. How do I know if my baby or toddler has eczema?
Eczema or dermatitis usually represents as red, dry and flaking skin. In babies, it normally starts over the cheeks, like a ‘milk rash’ or over the scalp and face like a bad case of cradle cap. In toddlers, it starts over the outer surfaces of the arms and legs, and the neck.
2. What are the main causes of baby and toddler eczema?
Very early onset eczema before the age of two years is usually genetic in nature. Sometimes, changes in the environment, like heat, sweat and irritants, such as soaps, can ‘unmask’ these genes and trigger the onset of eczema. Interestingly, eczema is more common in urban cities, so it’s thought that modern living and lifestyle has a role to play too!
3. What can I do – if anything – to prevent eczema in my baby or toddler?
There are things you can do! There have been some preliminary studies that showed the use of moisturisers from early infancy helped reduce the rates of eczema. Also, there is some evidence that certain probiotics taken by mummy and the baby may help too. The main idea is that protecting the skin barrier and exposure to certain ‘good bacteria’ may change the way the environment impacts our skin’s immune system. Preventing eczema is a top priority for research and we look forward to more exciting results coming out – watch this space!
4. I don’t want to go down the steroid route to treat my little one’s eczema. Will natural methods be effective?
Definitely! Most cases of mild eczema may not need steroid creams. A key aspect of eczema treatment is good skin barrier protection and repair by using a good gentle cleanser and effective moisturiser. That said, it’s always important to match the severity of eczema with the various treatment options, and there are safe and appropriate ways to use medicated creams. ‘Natural’ doesn’t always mean ‘safer’ – it may be surprising to know that steroids are totally naturally occurring hormones in our bodies and steroid creams were first made from natural sources! So, even steroids, which are now synthesized in the lab, and which many people are fearful of using, can be considered ‘natural’ in a sense. This highlights how important it is to be aware that ‘natural’ does not always blindly mean ‘good’.
5. Are there any changes I can make to my child’s diet to help improve eczema?
A healthy balanced diet is critical for a child’s growth, and diet restriction is not usually necessary, as most children with eczema do not have food allergies. In some very severe cases of eczema, there may be food or milk allergies, but it’s important to do tests to confirm a true allergy.
So, if you listen to the experts, it seems that natural methods can definitely be your first choice of weapon in the battle against eczema. We’re big fans of finding natural solutions to these challenges, such as the colloidal oatmeal in Aveeno Baby that we’re excited to say is now available in Singapore – hurrah!
Aveeno Baby uses the natural power of oats to moisturise, soothe, and relieve baby’s skin effectively. Even if your little one doesn’t suffer from eczema, as Dr Tang says, keeping their skin moisturised is a great way to try to keep it at bay.
Here’s to keeping our little ones comfy in their own skin!
This post is sponsored by Johnson & Johnson.