Atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema, is a skin problem that causes dry, itchy, scaly and red skin in children. It usually starts during infancy or early childhood. In infants and toddlers, atopic dermatitis generally starts on the face or on the elbows and knees i.e. places that are easy to scratch and rub as they crawl. In older children, atopic dermatitis appears in the skin folds of the elbows, hands and/or knees. Rashes or redness behind a child’s ear, on their feet or scalp, may also be a sign of atopic dermatitis.
There is no specific treatment to control atopic dermatitis. Keeping the moisture intact in your child’s skin is one of the most important things that can help in controlling atopic dermatitis.
Children with atopic dermatitis have a damaged skin barrier (outermost layer of skin), which makes their skin more sensitive to irritants, allergens, bacteria, and other invaders. A damaged skin barrier also makes it harder for the skin to retain water, leading to chronic dry, itchy skin, which can cause atopic dermatitis to flare or get worse. Moisturizer helps to keep skin hydrated and protects the skin barrier, thus preventing dryness and keeping out irritants and allergens.
Using a moisturizer in children with atopic dermatitis can:
- Help the skin to heal
- Reduce itching by relieving dry skin
- Decrease the need for atopic dermatitis medicine
- Prevent atopic dermatitis from getting worse
The “Soak and Seal” method:
The “Soak and Seal” method of treating atopic dermatitis is recommended to treat dry skin and to reduce flare.
Instructions to Soak and Seal:
- Put the child in a bathtub using lukewarm water for five to 10 minutes
- Use a gentle cleanser (no soaps) and avoid scrubbing the affected skin
- After bathing, pat the skin lightly with a towel leaving it slightly damp
- Apply the prescription topical medication to the affected areas of skin as directed
- Soften moisturizer by rubbing it between the hands
- Apply a thick layer of moisturizer all over the skin within three minutes of bathing or showering to “lock in” moisture and protect the skin barrier
- Wait a few minutes to let the moisturizer absorb into the skin before dressing or applying wet wraps.
Don’t limit moisturizing to just bath time. Apply it throughout the day whenever child skin starts to itch or feels dry. Also remember, when looking for a moisturizer, it should be fragrance-free, dye-free and greasy or more oily (ointments and creams instead of lotions).