Emollients and Steroid Treatments for Children

This video has been made to help parents of children with eczema understand more about emollients and steroid treatments and how to use them. 

Eczema is most common in children, with one in five affected worldwide. It can affect people of all ages but commonly starts in the first year of life.There is no cure for eczema, but it can be well managed with a good skin care routine that involves cleansing and moisturizing and treating eczema flares. 

In eczema the skin barrier doesn’t work as well, moisture escapes from the skin making it dry and itchy. Broken skin means that bacteria, irritants and allergens are more likely to get in and cause problems including infections and increasing the risk of developing a food allergy.   

Eczema skin is dry, itchy and uncomfortable. It needs a good skin care routine to help put moisture back into the skin and special care to treat eczema flares. 

Everyday eczema management  

Moisturisers for dry skin, also known as emollients, should be used every day – even when the eczema appears well controlled. Thick, plain emollients are best for eczema skin, avoiding products that are perfumed or scented.These emollients should be applied all over the body as eczema skin is dry skin.  

Depending on how dry the skin is the emollient may need to be applied multiple times a day. 

When applying ointments from a container use a clean spoon or spatula to help prevent the container becoming contaminated with bacteria. 

Emollients should be applied with a smooth downward motion in the direction of the hair growth.Leaving a time interval of between 15-30 minutes between applying the emollient and before applying the steroid helps ensure each treatment works effectively.Avoid emollients that contain fragrance, plant or food products e.g. vegetable, nut or olive oils, as these can disrupt the skin barrier and sensitise the skin leading to food allergies. 

Emollients can soak into clothes and bedding, make sure these are washed regularly on a hot wash to reduce the risk of flammability. 

Managing eczema flares  

When eczema worsens this is called an eczema flare, eczema flares cause the skin to become red and inflamed and very uncomfortable.   

Steroid creams or ointments can help manage eczema flares but will need to be prescribed by your doctor. These come in different strengths (also called potency) and are prescribed depending on the severity and location of the eczema.          

Steroid creams are good for wet/weeping eczema whilst ointments are useful on thick and dry areas of skin. For mild to moderate eczema steroid creams help to reduce the redness, and inflammation and dampens down the underlying immune response which causes the unpleasant symptoms.    

Knowing how much steroid cream to put on inflamed areas is sometimes difficult. Steroids should only be put on the active red and flared eczema areas. Using the fingertip unit as a guide can be useful – one fingertip unit is the amount of steroid cream / ointment from the first bend in the finger to the fingertip. For example, one fingertip amount is enough to cover the same amount of eczema as the surface of two adult hands.    

Steroids should be used as advised by your doctor, usually once or twice a day.   

Steroid treatment is safe  

Parents of children with eczema often worry about using steroids because of the possible side effects like skin thinning and effects on growth. If used correctly in the correct strength and frequency of application steroids are a safe and effective treatment for eczema flares. 

If you need advice or support with eczema treatments speak to your doctor.   

Visit www.allergyuk.org for more information or call our Helpline on 01322 619898 For more information on our services, visit www.allergyuk.org or call our Helpline on 01322 619898    

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