The Truth About Eczema: Debunking the Myths
Over the past few years, we have heard so many misconceptions about eczema so we thought it would be good to clear up these misconceptions!
Eczema is a very common condition that affects one in five children in Singapore. Eczema is also known as atopic dermatitis, a chronic skin disorder that causes the skin to become inflamed or irritated. The symptoms of eczema include:
dry, cracked skin
small, raised bumps
inflamed, itchy skin
weepy and oozing wounds
thickened skin as a result of persistent scratching
Misconception #1: Eczema is contagious
When I first suffered from eczema, my concerned mum asked if it is contagious or spreadable through contact. Well, the good news is, eczema is not contagious. It is not a virus so there’s nothing to “spread” by touching or coming into contact with another person. Unfortunately, eczema may be hereditary. Having a parent or sibling who has eczema increases the chances that baby may develop it too.
Overheard: If you’re pregnant, taking probiotics may help to reduce the risk of eczema in babies. Source
During our second pregnancy with Keira, we’ve had little success to put this theory to the test as I could not ingest probiotic pills or gummies without throwing up.
What we think: There's no harm in trying! We've heard some success stories from mummy friends!
Misconception #2: Eczema is caused by food
A food allergy may trigger eczema but is not the cause of eczema. Most food allergies will cause hives, vomiting, and irritability within 10 to 30 minutes of consumption, so do observe your child when introducing any new food. Occasionally, a food allergy may result in delayed eczema flare-ups.
TGE says: The challenge with food allergy is that it may present itself differently in different children. With Enzo, we also experienced zero allergic reaction with a food item one day, and then severe hives on his whole face the next day with the same food item. Food allergy may sometimes take some time to develop, so always keep a close eye when introducing high-risk foods.
Check out this list of common food allergens in baby from solid starts.
Until today, we are still careful when Enzo consumes eggs and cherry tomatoes. These are two things that he loves and we have observed lesser allergic reactions in the past year, although certain batches of cherry tomatoes still trigger an allergic reaction in him.
Misconception #3: Poor hygiene causes eczema
While eczema is not caused by poor hygiene practices, dirt, and sweat build-up will aggravate eczema. However, as we previously shared, cleansing the skin with harsh soaps and using harsh laundry detergents for baby and your clothes can irritate baby’s skin and aggravate the eczema condition.
Misconception #4: Eczema can be cured
Unfortunately, there is still no cure for eczema, but there are ways to manage symptoms as we shared here. To manage your child’s eczema symptoms, you need to identify what triggers eczema, avoid the triggers and follow specific treatments recommended by your doctor or tried and tested treatments specific to your child to soothe their eczema symptoms.
Misconception #5: Eczema is just dry skin
Dry skin is a common symptom of eczema, and again, dry skin does not cause eczema itself. With eczema, the skin’s barrier function is weakened, resulting in the skin being unable to retain moisture and protect the body from external elements.
Think of eczema skin as a plastic bag that has small holes in it. It just won't be able to keep water in. So instead of expecting it to hold water in, just remember to keep "topping up" the water, i.e. moisturising baby's skin frequently.
Misconception #6: Bathing every day worsens eczema
While it's true that people with eczema should avoid hot showers and use mild soaps, bathing itself won't make eczema worse. In fact, lukewarm (not hot!) baths are recommended for people who have eczema. Bathing helps hydrate the skin and remove dead cells so they don't build up and clog pores. After bathing, you should use a moisturizer on damp skin right away. This step will help lock in moisture.
TGE says: During the covid lockdown in Singapore, we had the privilege of caring for Enzo full-time at home ourselves. We would shower him two to three times daily, before his naps, and before his bedtime. We also moisturised him every two hours to ensure his skin was not dry and itchy, which will cause him to scratch more. His eczema symptoms were visually better at the end of the lockdown.
Misconception #7: Air-con aggravates eczema
While this may be true in other countries, in our hot and humid Singapore weather, I’ve found the the air-con to be a life saver in keeping my sanity and Enzo’s eczema condition under control (especially during the whole COVID-19 lockdown and we were stuck at home).
Air-con not only keeps baby cool and dry (keeping sweat at bay), but it also keeps baby and you in a better mood too!
Enzo's eczema at 11 months before the COVID-lockdown
Enzo's eczema had healed so much after our religious care routine
TGE Tip! Remember to moisturise baby every 2-hourly (or every hour if you can!)
TGE Tip 2! When looking for a childcare centre for your child, tour the school and ask if the classrooms will be air-conditioned the whole day, or if there will be periods of ventilation for the classrooms. Also, do check school protocols during warmer seasons if they keep the classrooms air-conditioned throughout the day.