25 October 2016Last updated

Features | People

Ask the expert: my kids suffer from dermatitis

Most of the time, the management plan to treat a child suffering from this is primarily based on frequent applications of thick emollients on their body

Dr Ikramullah Al Nasir
26 Apr 2016 | 10:56 am

I’m a mother of three children aged nine, seven and five. All of them have very dry skin and have been suffering from severe atopic dermatitis since they were infants. Their skin, including on the face, is very red, scaly, and itchy. There are several small wounds on different areas of their bodies through vigorous scratching. Please advise.

Atopic dermatitis is a genetically mediated skin disorder and can be associated with some other atopic conditions such 
as bronchial asthma, allergic rhinitis, repeated throat allergies and frequent eye irritation, among others.

I’m sure the doctors you consulted must have explained to you the difficulties in effectively treating childhood atopic dermatitis. Disappointingly, medical science has yet to find a curative treatment for this condition. Most of the time, the management plan to treat a child suffering from this is primarily based on frequent applications of thick emollients on their body.

Short-term application of topical steroidal ointments together with topical antibacterial preparations (particularly for the eroded areas of the skin) does help in suppressing dermatitis to the extent that significant relief can be achieved.

However, emollient applications should continue on long-term basis. I don’t encourage prolonged use of topical steroids at this 
young age and for extensive areas of the body because of their potential side effects – mainly, significant skin thinning and even growth retardation. Luckily, there are some non-steroidal topical preparations available now that we often use as steroid-sparing agents.

Dress your children in long-sleeved shirts and full-length trousers to avoid sunburn. Similarly, avoid giving them baths with very hot water and don’t use lots of soap and shampoo. Also avoid so-called antiseptic soaps or solutions for their baths as it could worsen their condition.

Keep your house carpet-free. Sofas and curtains should not be of thick velvety material as they can collect dust and worsen your kids’ condition. Do not use perfumes/sprays in the presence of children.

A small number of children with atopic dermatitis may also have some sort of food allergy. A blood test should be done to find out.

Some studies have found that a large number of children with atopic dermatitis suffer from low self-esteem and low self-confidence, and are emotionally very sensitive. This makes them vulnerable to bullies at schools. So keep enhancing their self-confidence and maintain a close communication with their school teachers to avoid any psychosocial complexities.

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Dr Ikramullah Al Nasir

Dr Ikramullah Al Nasir

is a specialist dermatologist and founder and president of Dermacare Skin Health Services.