Eczema is a common skin condition in children, affecting about 30% of children under the age of 5 in Australia. In eczema the skin becomes inflamed, red and sore. It is often dry and very itchy. Kids will often scratch to alleviate the itch, but this does exacerbate the inflammation on the skin and makes it worse and can lead to thickened, brownish areas on the skin.
Kids who have eczema can often go on to develop hayfever and asthma later, known as the atopic march which refers to a progression of atopy. Atopy is when the immune system is overly sensitive to allergens in the environment such as pollen and dust mite. Atopic dermatitis is the most common cause of eczema in children.
Common triggers for eczema:
Many parents seek help from ReMed naturopaths as they are looking for natural ways to improve their child’s eczema to avoid use of cortisone cream. Cortisone cream is a steroid, topically applied to relieve itching of dermatitis and eczema. It is available in retail forms such as Dermaid, Sigmacort, and Cortic, or by prescription.
The main concern with using steroid creams is that it slows down the healing of skin by directly reducing the rate of skin cell formation, collagen repair and by impairing the blood supply needed to support that repair. This is a rather problematic for people who already have damaged skin and therefore an increased requirement for healing.
Other common skin side effects are the loss of skin pigmentation, acne-like eruptions, fungal infections such as tinea, dermatitis around the mouth, spreading of the bacteria that causes acne, prolonged infections of cold sores and molluscum contagiosum.
A review (1) highlighted the need for caution and limited use, particularly in children.
The review shows that children are particularly prone to develop systemic side effects when topical steroids because their softer skin has an enhanced capacity for absorption, and they have an increased surface area to body weight ratio.