Eczema, also known as dermatitis, is a common and non-contagious skin disease that causes the skin to be easily red, inflamed and itchy. It varies in severity and is characterised by patches of hot, itchy, scaly skin that may produce weeping blisters and a clear discharge. Repeated scratching can cause the skin to become raw and bleed, and thickening or discolouration may occur. The term eczema refers to a group of conditions responsible for this rash-like reaction in the skin. The most common form of eczema is known as atopic dermatitis or atopic eczema. Although eczema is not contagious, it tends to be a chronic condition with no known cure. While eczema is very common in children, it can strike at any age.
- You’re not alone. Eczema is often a persistent or recurrent dry skin condition, affecting about 2 out of 10 children and 2 to 10 out of every 100 adults.
- The most common skin problem of young children – eczema. In fact, the correct term is atopic eczema. It refers to an inflammation of the skin. If you have atopic eczema, you have been born with super-sensitive dry skin for life.
- Studies suggest that as many as 10 to 25 percent of children will develop the condition.
- Approximately one-third of children with eczema will also develop asthma and/or hayfever
- Infant eczema can be easily confused with cradle cap, another significantly less red, scaly rash of infancy. Cradle cap generally clears up by 8 months and usually appears on the scalp, sides of the nose, eyelids and eyebrows, and behind the ears.
What causes Eczema?
The exact cause of eczema remains unknown, but it’s thought to be the immune system’s reaction to certain environmental irritants or triggers. The most common triggers for eczema include dry air, dust, pollen, synthetic fabrics in clothing or bedsheets, certain detergents or household cleaners, stress, heat, hot water or food allergies.
We know that ‘genetic’ (inherited) factors play some part and probably make a child more at risk of developing eczema or other dry skin conditions, asthma and hay fever. However, it’s not all down to genetics, there are also a number of environmental factors that trigger atopic eczema in a susceptible child. Interestingly, these triggers are not always allergies. In fact, irritation caused by ordinary soaps, wearing wool next to the skin, overheating at night or even contact with water, dusty materials and pet hair may be more significant for eczema than specific allergies to foods or house dust mites.
A recent study has shown that an abnormality in the gene that helps to maintain the skin barrier has been closely linked to the onset of eczema. A defect in the skin barrier makes the skin more susceptible to infection and irritation and allows allergens to penetrate the skin, causing itching and inflammation.
Types of Eczema
When your skin is red, inflamed or itchy, eczema may be to blame. The term eczema refers to a group of conditions responsible for this rash-like reaction in the skin. The most common form of eczema is known as atopic dermatitis or atopic eczema. While eczema is very common in children, it can strike at any age. Although Eczema is not contagious, it tends to be a chronic condition with no known cure. There are measures you can take to help alleviate the symptoms associated with eczema. Self-care treatments are important. Using gentle, fragrance-free skincare products and keeping the skin hydrated is key in keeping the itchiness and irritation associated with eczema under control.
What triggers it?
There is no specific, single cause for eczema, although in some cases it is thought to be hereditary. Many factors in a person’s environment can cause a flare-up.
Common triggers are:
- Food Sensitivity and Food Allergens
- Reactions to washing detergents, soaps, bath salts and dust mites and their droppings
- Extreme weather conditions and central heating
- Being unwell, for example, having a common cold
- Teething in babies
- Dryness of the skin
Signs and symptoms?
Eczema flares, which appear on the skin as red, scaly, and itchy patches, can show up almost anywhere on your body, but the most common areas are backs of knees, inside of the elbows, neck, wrist, hands and feet. Using gentle, fragrance-free skincare products, taking warm—not hot—showers and keeping the skin hydrated are key in keeping the itchiness and irritation under control.
In children, the condition is quite easy to recognise. The skin might appear drier than normal. The location of atopic eczema is also quite typical. Patches of atopic eczema in infants and children up to the age of two usually appear first on the cheeks, forehead and scalp. They may occasionally also be seen on the neck and the body. Once the baby starts to crawl, eczema can be seen on the ankles, shins, wrists and forearms. From the age of three onwards, eczema is less frequently on the face, instead appearing on the skin creases in front of the elbow and behind the knee. The upper arms and legs may also be affected, as well as hands and feet.
As you would expect if the skin barrier function is less than ideal, germs are attracted to the skin, which spells trouble for children with atopic eczema as infected eczema becomes more inflamed, itchy and more difficult to treat. One particular bacteria, called Staphylococcus Auresus, love to live on the skin of children with atopic eczema. An infection is obvious: skin has a yellowish crust and discharge is visible, while the eczema itself is unstable and painful. The bacteria is not always obvious, however, so it is important to maintain a daily skincare routine (as recommended by the National Eczema Society) that will help to improve the skin’s overall cleanliness and prevent eczema flare-ups. Moisturisers should be applied several times every day to help the outer layer of your skin function better as a barrier to the environment. The drier your skin, the more frequently you should apply a moisturiser. Don’t forget: when choosing a new moisturiser it’s vital to test a small area of skin to check if you are allergic to any of the ingredients.
Can Eczema be cured?
Unfortunately, no, it cannot be cured, but there are many ways of controlling it. Eczema in childhood is a condition which tends to come and go. The good news is that most children will ‘grow out’ of eczema eventually. Around 60% to 70% of children who have eczema in the first few years of their lives are clear of it by the age of 11. Unfortunately, however, it is impossible to say which child will grow out of it and when, and some children may have the condition for life and need to avoid irritants such as soaps or bubble baths.
Atopic eczema may be troublesome for people in certain jobs that involve contact with irritant materials, such as catering, hairdressing, cleaning or healthcare work. Fortunately, while there is no known cure, many effective natural treatments are available to alleviate your symptoms and reduce inflammation and soothe your skin. Many doctors would prescribe cortisone based products. We believe in a more natural and holistic approach and would recommend first to try a different bathing option and explore some diet changes (removing gluten from the diet).
What can I do- now and in the Future?
Self-care treatments are important. Using gentle, fragrance-free skincare products and keeping the skin hydrated are key in keeping the itchiness and irritation associated with eczema under control.
Anything that aggravates symptoms should be avoided. This includes allergens such as pollen, dust mites, animal fur (particularly cat and dog hair) and skin irritants– the most common being wool, synthetic fibres, soaps, bubble baths, fabric detergents and conditioners, perfumes, cosmetics, lanolin, certain chemicals such as chlorine and solvents (including mineral oil), cigarette smoke, dust and sand. Try to keep the home environment cool, with stable temperature and humidity.
Diet can also affect symptoms. Food allergies are more difficult to recognise in children and while tests can be helpful they do not always give definitive results. Diet and food Allergens are very specific to each individual and should be discussed with your healthcare provider, a doctor, dietician or naturopath, for example, who can help you make the necessary dietary changes to ensure you will be consuming enough calories, protein and calcium, and determine if cutting out a particular food improves your gut health and the severity of your eczema.
Our Manuka Biotic Recommendations
Thick in texture and rich in emollients, the Manuka Biotic Body Lotion moisturises even the driest of skin, creates an effective barrier, reduces inflammation, and fights bacteria. Organic New Zealand Manuka Oil, known for its amazing healing powers, is combined with organic, tree, nut-free oils to create this gentle, nourishing manuka oil product that will not irritate the skin. Our Manuka Biotic Body Lotion is a surprisingly soft and creamy balm, that’s excellent for healing open wounds and soothing irritated eczema skin.
-Naturally anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anti-viral, and anti-septic.
-Great for eczema, psoriasis and rosacea as well as wounds, cuts, scrapes, and more.
-Helps heal and prevent bacterial infections on the skin.
-Contains none of the following potential irritants: parabens, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate & SLES, PEGs, EDTA, mineral oils, petroleum-based products, Propylene Glycol, Phthalates, Phenoxyethanol, Fragrances and Colourings
-Made in New Zealand.
Please read the full ingredient list for any known irritants or allergies. We advise trying new products on a small patch of skin and waiting 24 hours to make sure there is no reaction. Any natural product on the market could contain an ingredient that won’t agree with your skin.
Read Our Manuka Mum’s Experiences
Hear directly from a few of our lovely Manuka Mum’s sharing their experiences of using our products on their own eczema and on their little one’s eczema. Click on the names below to see their story.
Want to know more?
There’s plenty you can do to relieve symptoms if your eczema gets worse. Check out the following websites for further information and support groups on how you can treat and prevent the condition. Remember, your health provider will also be able to offer assistance with assessing and treating your symptoms.
|New Zealand||Eczema Association New Zealand
This organisation has an excellent website. A full list of eczema facts, forums, blogs, education and a support line, to help improve the lives of people living with eczema.
|Australia||Eczema Association Australasia
The leading professional organisation in Australasia providing comprehensive resources and a support line, to improve the lives of people living with eczema.
|United Kingdom|| The National Eczema Society
Dedicated to the needs of people with eczema, dermatitis and sensitive skin, the organisation is an excellent source of support and information.
For further information talk to your doctor.