Causes, treatments and common triggers of eczema in children

Written by: Professor Andrew Wright
Published: | Updated: 18/02/2021
Edited by: Cameron Gibson-Watt

Sometimes referred to as atopic eczema, childhood eczema belongs to a group of conditions that, in addition to eczema, include asthma, hay fever and certain food allergies. Those affected will often have all or some of these problems.


In this article, one of our top dermatologists, Professor Andrew Wright, explains more about the development of eczema in young children, how it can be effectively treated and what common triggers you should look out for.



Where does eczema typically first develop?

This type of eczema initially appears in the first six to eight weeks of life. It often develops in what is described as a flexion pattern, that is, around the wrists, the insides of the crook of the elbows, behind the knees and around the neck. If the eczema is poorly controlled, it may steadily become much more generalised and chronic.


As there is a genetic predisposition to the condition, it is often recognised at an early stage as other family members are also affected. However, help at this stage with input and expert advice is essential in controlling the condition and helping to prevent its progression.


How can eczema be treated?

Atopic eczema is a multifactorial condition, and most patients benefit from the attention and support of experienced healthcare professionals. Generally, the skin is dry and regular application of a moisturiser to improve dryness will hopefully reduce the need for topical steroid medications. However, most eczema requires short bursts of topical steroids to bring it under control. Supervision should usually be carried out by people experienced in the management of eczema.

Occasionally, infection can exacerbate eczema and short courses of antibiotics may be necessary.


What are some common eczema triggers?

The development of an allergy to a variety of things can play a role in the development and exacerbation of eczema.


The most common allergens are so-called aeroallergens - things that can be transmitted through the air. These include:


  • house dust
  • mites
  • pollens
  • animal fur
  • moulds


Occasionally, food allergies, particularly to milk, eggs, fish, nuts and wheat can occur.


The presence of any of the above allergens can sometimes make eczema worse and more difficult to manage.


Food allergy testing should be performed by healthcare professionals experienced in this area. It is important to note that excessive dietary changes can lead to malnutrition and other problems. Therefore, dietary changes should only be made under medical supervision.


Where can patients and families get extra support?

There are several support and self-help groups for patients and families with eczema. The National Eczema Society has a good website and provides excellent general advice and guidance. 


If you or your child have eczema and need specialist advice, don't hesitate to book a consultation with Professor Andrew Wright via his Top Doctors profile.

By Professor Andrew Wright

Professor Andrew Leslie Wright is a consultant dermatologist in Bradford and Leeds who specialises in eczema, psoriasis, skin cancer and skin allergies.

Having decided on specialising in dermatology, Professor Wright gained as much medical experience as possible by working in an infectious diseases unit, in chest medicine, cardiology and endocrinology. He spent six months working on a coronary care unit and six months in a casualty department where he gained experience with a wide variety of practical procedures.

Professor Wright spent six months in the Rupert Hallam Department of Dermatology, Sheffield as part of a medical rotation. He then spent 20 months in the University Department of Dermatology, Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh.

Professor Wright is committed to teaching undergraduate medical students both in the outpatient clinic and on formal lecture courses. He supervises students doing special study modules and examines Leeds University medical students. He is an honorary visiting professor at Bradford University and a member of the Centre for Skin Sciences at Bradford University.

He has appeared on television, both live and recorded, on numerous occasions and has performed many radio interviews, particularly with regards to sun awareness and skin cancer. He has most recently contributed to two episodes of the Channel 4 programme Embarrassing Bodies.

Professor Wright is a member of several professional societies, including the British Association of Dermatologists, European Contact Dermatitis Society, British Society for Investigative Dermatology and British Hair and Nail Society.

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