Eczema is common among children and brings parents to desperation about their child scratching. What can be done?
Eczema in children is becoming more and more common. It seems to have increased a lot over the last few years. Children suffer from the condition a great deal and can’t control their tendency to scratch. The pain and itching caused by eczema can bring the child out of balance considerably and also drives the parents to the edge. The entire family suffers from the crying and interrupted sleep patterns. We often call this atopic eczema or constitutional eczema. Whatever you call it, the skin is red, flaky, itchy and full of scratches. (Eczema is the medical term for skin that is red, flay and itches.)
Too little anti-inflammatory fatty acids in the skin
Meanwhile we know that in case of a chronically inflamed skin that itches, the natural fatty acids in the skin that are anti-inflammatory are insufficiently present. One of the most important fatty acids of this group is palmitoylethanolamide. Since a new cream became available that contains a high concentration of this natural fatty acid, a new treatment can be provided. More about this later.
How to treat eczema in children
Science hasn’t found a good answer on how to treat eczema in children. Most anti-eczema medication contains nasty ingredients with many side effects, which you don’t want to give to your child, especially hormone creams or creams that contain tar (pix liquida, yuk!). Moreover, very little research has actually been conducted on the best treatment for children. In a treatment journal (The Dutch GeBu) frequently consulted by doctors it literally says:
When this article was written it turned out that the available double blind and randomized studies on treatment of eczema in children was limited in size and of average quality. Contrary to what is customary in this medical journal, part of the advice given in this article is not based on scientific evidence, but on practical opinions and experiences.
Eczema in children, constitutional eczema
Eczema in children in is a chronic condition that occurs in 5% of all infants and toddlers. This skin condition also goes by the name of atopic eczema or constitutional eczema. It’s important to know that this condition is not contagious and parents don’t have to worry that the condition is due to bad skin care. It is genetically determined if a child has eczema or not, presumably by allergic stimuli. The genetic constitution also plays a role in the development of asthma, asthmatic bronchitis and hay fever, which is often seen in combination with atopic eczema in children. Stimuli like temperature and humidity changes, house dust mite and pets can flare up eczema in sensitive children.
Eczema in children: itching, redness, flaking and scratching
Eczema in children starts to occur between 1 to 4 months after birth. Red, itching, sometimes damp skin rash, often with small blisters, starts to become visible on the face and between the hair on the head, but also on arms and legs. The itching especially is bothersome. The infant or toddler will try to subdue the itching by scratching, which unfortunately will only aggravate the eczema. It’s easy to understand these kids can be restless and cry often, also at night.
Eczema in children comes in ebbs and flows, some periods are fine and suddenly it may flare up again. Over half of the children will stop having complaints after their third year. However, some children remain that keep having symptoms and are chronically treated with creams that contain corticosteroids, which is no good as these are hormones.
A study conducted on over 300 children between the ages of 6 months and 15 years old, showed treatment with PEA cream improved all of their symptoms. Less redness, less skin flaking, less itching and discomfort. On the picture above we can see one of these children, with eczema around the belly button, before and after the treatment with PEA cream.
PEA cream was invented a long time ago, in 1994, patented by an Italian group. This group never developed the cream, so it seems. Other patents for PEA creams have been written after that, including one interesting one where it was found that when treated with PEA cream there was less need for corticosteroids.
Natural treatment of eczema in children
Science has nothing to offer these children that has proven effective and safe. This is clearly stated in the medicine journals. No parent is eager to give their child cream that contains hormones.
This is why it’s good that there’s a cream with an natural anti-inflammatory, anti-itching and pain reducing substance in it: palmitoylethanolamide (PEA). This PEA cream is available without prescription and has shown great results. PEA cream has been available since 2004. It has been evaluated in several studies and showed to reduce pain, redness and damage to the skin, as well as decrease itching. The first PEA cream, however, only contained a low dose of PEA (less than 0,5%). There is a cream available nowadays with a higher dose of PEA (1,5%) combined with the natural anti-inflammatory Boswellia.
The logic behind treating eczema in children with PEA seems clear:
- The skin contains the natural anti-inflammatory substance PEA.
- Chronic skin conditions like dermatitis and eczema decrease the synthesis of this substance.
- By supplementing PEA by using a cream the skin is brought back in to balance.
There are no side effects to using PEA cream. The cream base is neutral, it protects the skin against dryness and also has no know side effects. It is still recommended to test a small amount of cream, just in case of an unexpected allergic reaction to the base cream. This is very rare, but better to test it before applying a large amount of cream to other parts of the body. PEA cream has been extensively and scientifically tested:
- On approximately 2000 patients with atopic eczema and hundreds of children with eczema.
- On patients with skin damage due to radiation for cancer treatment.
- On patients with severe itching and skin problems due to kidney dialyses.
The fact that the outcome was of high clinical importance is evident by this quote from one of the studies on the protection of radioactive radiation on the skin: “Results from the Trento study show that 4 out of 5 patients receiving radiotherapy for head and neck cancer and using palmitoylethanolamide cream experience only a mild or no skin reaction”
Nobody knows how to prevent eczema in children. The GeBu says:
The effectiveness of preventative measure is unknown. Practically it is advised to change diapers frequently and possibly use paper diapers.
Other practical tips include: Don’t use woolen clothing for your children, it itches and can aggravate the eczema. Cotton clothing is preferred. Synthetic clothing should be avoided too.
Sources: about the diverse effects of PEA cream on skin
PEA containing cream in atopic dermatitis: results of a comparator trial; repairing the skin
THE PALMITOYLETHANOLAMIDE FAMILY: A NEW TREATMENT CHOICE FOR ATOPIC DERMATITIS?
PEA creme: palmitoylethanolamide in beschermende creme, tegen pijn en jeuk
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