Atopic dermatitis (AD), also known as eczema, is the most common inflammatory skin disease in childhood and it is characterized by pruritic (itchy) lesions .
Although it is often mild, atopic dermatitis symptoms can be difficult to control and they can lead to complications .
For this reason, when suspecting of atopic dermatitis, it is recommended to visit the doctor and learn about what to do and what not to do for atopic skincare and outbreaks prevention.
Is it common for young children to get atopic skin?
Atopic skin affects a large proportion of children, especially those under 2 years of age, where it occurs in 20 % of the population .
Generally, atopic dermatitis shows up during the first 5 years. Many children improve significantly or even overcome the disease as they get older. However, most of them reach adulthood with the disease .
What are the causes of atopic dermatitis in children?
The eczema origin is complex.
Different factors are involved in the pathogenesis of atopic dermatitis, that is, in the set of causes that lead to its development. The most important ones are: physical skin defects, the immune system, and environmental factors .
Researchers consider that, out of these three factors, the skin barrier defects are truly relevant, especially in childhood cases of atopic dermatitis.
Those defects occur when the outermost layer of the epidermis presents alterations. In fact, a genetic mutation of filaggrin, a stratum corneum protein, has been identified as the main responsible for these defects . If you want to know more about the molecular causes of atopic dermatitis, you can read this article.
In addition, these physical deficiencies combined with a sensitive immune system typical of children in their early years, lead to the production of other type of proteins, called interleukins, which trigger inflammation that produces red skin and pruritus.
How can we recognize atopic dermatitis in children?
Most cases of atopic skin occur in children who, generally, present trouble to correctly communicate. For this reason, it is important to pay attention to the signs which skin diseases, such as atopic dermatitis, show up through.
The characteristics of this condition are:
- Dry or flaky skin at early stages of the outbreak.
- Red and inflamed skin during later stages of the outbreak.
- Persistent itching.
These signs usually appear on limbs, face, and scalp.
In any case, if an outbreak is suspected, it is recommended to visit the doctor to confirm the diagnosis and start treatment, which normally has two objectives: to recover the skin and to reduce inflammation in the damaged area.
Another fundamental part for the treatment in childhood cases of atopic dermatitis is the family education: get to know the disease and learn to manage it .
Complications beyond atopic dermatitis
In moderate or severe cases, children can get other complications beyond eczema such as suffering from sleep interruptions, which leads to poor school performance, low self-esteem, and family stress.
Moreover, lesions can lead to infection by microorganisms, as Staphylococcus aureus, which generates the most common skin infection in atopic dermatitis .
The importance of skin care in children
To take care of atopic dermatitis in children, it is not enough to limit the treatment to the doctor prescription, but to carry out a series of good hygiene and skin care habits aimed to avoid future outbreaks:
• Use shower gel with a pH near to skin pH.
• Reduce bath time and avoid hot water.
• Wear cotton clothing.
And, very important, choose a product that keeps the skin hydrated and takes care of the areas of frequent outbreaks!
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1. Huang E, et al. Severe Atopic Dermatitis in Children. Curr Allergy Asthma Rep. 2018 May 10;18(6):35.
2. Strathie Page S, et al. Atopic dermatitis in children. Aust Fam Physician. 2016 May;45(5):293-6.
3. Drislane C, et al. The role of filaggrin in atopic dermatitis and allergic disease. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2020 Jan;124(1):36-43.
4. Escarrer Jaume M, Guerra Pérez MT. Dermatitis atópica. Protoc diagn ter pediatr. 2019;2:161-75