Medically Reviewed by Dr. David Costa Navarro
What is that Eczema (also called dermatitis) is an inflammatory skin disease. The causes can be more than one. There is a form of eczema due to contact with irritating or allergenic substances and a form due to particular dysfunctions of our body (then we speak of “atopic dermatitis”). In contact dermatitis caused by irritants, inflammation is caused by damage to the skin caused by substances such as acids or solvents. In allergic contact dermatitis, the responsible substances can be hair dyes, drugs applied to the skin, metals, cosmetics and many others. Sometimes dermatitis only appears on parts of the body exposed to sunlight. The true cause of atopic dermatitis is unknown. It is often observed that those affected have a family history of allergic diseases such as asthma or allergic rhinitis (see the respective data sheets). It often appears in the first months of life to heal spontaneously during adolescence or adulthood. The skin can remain very sensitive to irritating chemicals.
How it manifests itself
In the acute phase of eczema, i.e. the moment in which the disorders of this disease are most noticeable, vesicles appear on the skin, which can break and release a clear liquid. Subsequently the vesicles turn into a crust. Eczema causes intense itching, which can prevent sleep. In contact dermatitis, lesions appear at the points of contact between parts of the body (for example, the hands) and irritants. In atopic eczema the parts of the body most affected are the face, neck, skin of the elbows, knees, wrists and ankles. The skin gradually becomes drier and thicker, until it takes on a particular appearance.
What are the risks
Wounds and scratches caused by the continuous scratching of the itchy parts can become infected.
What should be done
- In contact dermatitis, the harmful substance or substances must be identified, remembering that they do not necessarily come into contact with the body in pure form but, more often than not, as components of complex articles (e.g. tools). Of course, contact with these substances must be avoided either by suspending their use or by wearing protective clothing (e.g. gloves) or by protecting the skin with so-called barrier creams.
- In the case of atopic dermatitis, the application on the skin, especially in children, of substances that could be irritating, such as cosmetic creams or perfumes, should be avoided.
- Wash the child suffering from atopic eczema with short baths in lukewarm water, possibly adding unscented bath oil to the water. It is better to avoid the common soap and no type of soap or shower gel should be put on the parts of the body with eczema.
- Apply a moisturizer on slightly damp skin, spreading it all over the body: your doctor or pharmacist will be able to recommend one suitable for the purpose.
- Keep the baby’s nails very short, to avoid scratching them. If necessary, particularly at night, it can be useful to put very light gloves or mittens on the child.
- Dress the child in light cotton clothes, compatibly with the season, avoiding wool and synthetic fibers.
- Use the medications prescribed by your doctor, and only these, carefully following your instructions.