It's an awful moment when you realise that those itchy, red patches on your baby or toddler's cheeks, chin, or chest have become irritated, or your child has patches of dry itchy skin on their neck, inner elbows, behind the knees; and that you have eczema in your whānau.
Eczema is a skin inflammation that causes itchy, red, swollen and painful areas. It can vary from mildly irritated dryish patches, to open weeping skin susceptible to infection. It's very common - 15% of children in New Zealand have eczema - and it's not contagious, but there is no known cure; treatment is designed to heal damaged skin and alleviate eczema symptoms.
The more severe cases of eczema are often a form called Atopic Dematitis, which indicates that the immune system is involved. This type of eczema is more common in families with allergies, hayfever or asthma.
Eczema is temporary for many, and most children grow out of it. The rate drops to 9% for Kiwi adolescents and patches tend to be more localised. Half of all children with Atopic Dermatitis will grow out of the condition by the time they are adults.
We're here to do all we can to help!
Understanding eczema & atopic dermatitis
Healthy skin provides a barrier which holds in skin moisture and keeps out all sorts of irritants. If your skin can't provide an effective barrier it will lose moisture, becoming dry and itchy - and allergens, irritants and bacteria can get past your skin's barrier and cause inflammation, or even infection.
In cases of Atopic Dermatitis, there are two ways scientists think that the skin barrier is compromised, leading to flare ups:
"There is emerging evidence that inflammation in atopic dermatitis is associated with immune-mediated and inherited abnormalities in the skin barrier. This barrier failure causes increased permeability of the skin and reduces its antimicrobial function. The main inherited abnormality causing disordered barrier function is filaggrin expression. Filaggrins are filament-associated proteins which bind to keratin fibres in the epidermal cells."
"In atopic dermatitis, there is often an imbalance of the two main types of T Helper lymphocytes (small white blood cells), Th-1 and Th-2. A higher level of Th2 associated cytokines contributes to the loss of skin barrier function:
- Water is lost from the skin
- Irritants may penetrate (soap, detergent, solvents, dirt etc.)
- Allergens may penetrate (pollens, dust-mite antigens, microbes)."
Source - Dermnet NZ
What that all means is that due to immune system function and/or genetics, the skin cells don't provide the barrier protection they normally would. Microbes, irritants and allergens can penetrate the skin and cause flare ups of eczema. This is why creating a moisture barrier on the skin is so useful in helping control eczema flare ups.
How does Frankie Kawakawa Balm help?
- It creates a physical moisture barrier on the skin, crucial to support and assist healing
- It contains the natural active myristicin which can lessen the pain signals sent to the brain,
- and analgesics, which can reduce pain
- It has antiseptic eugenol to fight the bugs that cause infection, reducing skin inflammation
- It contains oils, calendula, Vitamin E, and antioxidant lignins to help with skin cell repair
Living with eczema - Know your eczema triggers
Learning more about what kind of eczema you have and what triggers it is key to managing it. If you are familiar with eczema and your triggers, feel free to skim this section - but if you have a new case of eczema in your whānau, we hope you will find some useful tips about what may trigger flare ups.
- changes in temperature
- allergens like dust mites, pollen, moulds or foods
- emotional stress
- environmental chemical exposure - smoke, washing powders, pesticides, synthetic cosmetic and body products
- harsh soaps that dry the skin
- tight, scratchy or synthetic clothing, wool
- for Atopic Dematitis, because it is associated with the immune system, viral infections, teething, and food allergies can upset the immune system and lead to flare ups
Once skin is irritated and itchy, the urge to scratch and rub leads to increased inflammation and itchiness.
Treatment tips for dry, itchy irritated skin
- Take lukewarm baths, and add our Colloidal Oat Soak for protective proteins
- apply Kawakawa Body Oil to damp skin right after bathing to seal in moisture
- moisturise every day with Kawakawa Balm (3 times a day initially, then once daily when the eczema flare up subsides) and Kawakawa Body Oil
- wear natural cotton and soft fabrics, and avoid rough, scratchy fibers and tight or synthetic clothing
- use a mild soap or a non-soap cleanser like our soothing Kūmarahou & Calendula Cleansing Bar and Kawakawa Cleansing Bar
- air dry or gently pat skin dry with a towel - don't rub
- try to avoid fast changes of temperature and sweating
- use a humidifier in dry or cold weather
- keep fingernails short so they don't break the skin
- use natural, unscented laundry powders and household cleaning products
- and the one that may take longest - learn and avoid your eczema triggers
(Hot tip - if you want to save a little but have the benefit of all our top eczema heroes, choose the Eczema Saviour bundle.)
When to see a doctor
- if discomfort is affecting your child's sleep and daily life
- if any skin infections appear (if you see red streaks, pustules, yellow scabs or weeping skin)
- if your child continues to experience symptoms,
- or you are worried! Trust your instincts.
Georgina & Matt