Neurodermatitis in children: symptoms and treatment
When it itches so badly and the child only wants to scratch itself, this is also difficult for the parents to bear. About 10 – 20 % of all children worldwide suffer from neurodermatitis, a non-infectious skin change, which also affects 2 – 5 % of adults. Good news: In children, neurodermatitis can disappear as they grow up. And even if no cure is known yet, regular intensive care can help to alleviate skin symptoms and prolong the relapse-free phases
Neurodermatitis in children on the face and head
In babies, children and adults, the symptoms usually differ with regard to the affected skin areas: babies can develop their first skin symptoms at the age of 2-3 months. Neurodermatitis typically occurs on the face – especially on the cheeks – and on the scalp as well as on the arms and legs: The skin is very dry, scaly, reddened and itchy. A skin rash in the diaper area is not atopic, as the diaper area is too moist for the development of atopic dermatitis.
Neurodermatitis in children on the body
When children develop the skin symptoms later (between two years and puberty), typically elbows, hollow of the knee, neck, hands and ankles are affected. After a longer period of time, the skin appears uneven, thickened and leathery.
Understanding neurodermatitis symptoms in children
Neurodermatitis (also known as atopic eczema) is a chronic disease – i.e. the skin symptoms can last for a long time. The affected children typically experience a phased course: Here, phases without relapses (“symptom-free”) and acute phases (“relapses”) alternate.
How can neurodermatitis in children be recognised?
What do the phases in neurodermatitis mean?
Typically, affected children experience a phased progression. Acute and no-thrust phases alternate at irregular intervals.
Characteristic features of the shear-free or relapse-free phase
The characteristic features of shear-free phases are a tendency to irritation, dry, sometimes thickened skin, scaling and cracking. The skin is usually very dry and needs intensive daily care.
Characteristic features of an acute phase (push phase)
Acute phases are more difficult. Characteristic features are: reddened, partially inflamed areas, weeping skin and severe itching. In such acute phases the parents are particularly challenged, as it can be difficult to keep the child from scratching. Scratching aggravates neurodermatitis because the fingernails damage the skin barrier so that the skin is additionally exposed to bacteria and can become inflamed.
Children sometimes rub their bodies against bedding, carpets or other surfaces to stop itching, which can lead to skin infections. However, an effective treatment with drugs, e.g. cortisone and intensive daily skin care can reduce many of the complaints.
What is the itch-scratch cycle?
Acute relapses often lead to the so-called “circulation of the atopic skin”. This is a cycle of cause and effect, which begins when a child scratches an itchy spot, thereby further damaging the already disturbed skin barrier. The exposed skin layers then form an ideal breeding ground for bacteria. They multiply and infect the skin. The infection leads to inflammation, which in turn causes itching, so that the cycle starts all over again. A consistent treatment with a soothing skin care product that prevents itching at an early stage helps against this.
What is the importance of the natural skin barrier?
In atopic eczema the natural skin barrier is impaired. The horny layer lacks moisture retaining factors, among other things.
- The skin dries out, making it easier for pollutants and allergens to penetrate.
- The immune cells are activated, which leads to inflammation.
- This irritates the nerve fibres that cause itching.
Causes & triggers: Potential causes and triggers of neurodermatitis in children
There are a number of reasons why the skin symptoms of children with neurodermatitis can worsen or appear in relapses. Affected children show a lack of natural moisturizing factors (NMF), such as amino acids, and a disturbance of the metabolism of epidermal lipids. This explains why her skin tends to dry out and become more sensitive.
Possible triggers and trigger factors for neurodermatitis in children
Relatives with hay fever and asthma
If parents suffer or have suffered from hay fever or asthma, the probability that their children will develop neurodermatitis also increases
The influence of the environment on neurodermatitis
Children living in urban environments with higher concentrations of pollutants and children living in cold climates are more likely to develop neurodermatitis.
Is the gender decisive?
Girls actually have a slightly higher susceptibility to neurodermatitis than boys.
Age of the mother at birth
It has been shown that babies born to older mothers have a higher tendency towards neurodermatitis.
Further factors influencing neurodermatitis in children
Since the triggers vary from person to person, it can be helpful to record external factors and their influence on the child’s skin in a diary. Such factors can be:
- Materials that come into contact with the skin, such as nylon (which can cause sweating) and wool
- Food and beverages. Common examples are dairy products, nuts and shellfish (however, you must consult your doctor before removing these from your child’s diet to ensure that they are not missing any important nutrients).
- Allergies to animal hair, pollen or dust mites.
- Mental stress.
- Detergents and cleaning agents
- Passive cigarette smoke.
- Lack of sleep (side effects of the disease) can worsen the skin symptoms.
Care recommendations: What helps my child with neurodermatitis? Tips for parents
Our care recommendations for children with neurodermatitis
Suitable skin care for babies and children with neurodermatitis includes lotions (e.g. AtopiControl LOTION), creams (e.g. AtopiContol ACTIVE CARE CREAM and AtopiControl CREAM), face creams (e.g. B. AtopiControl FACE CREAM), bath and shower oils (e.g. AtopiControl SHOWER AND BATH OIL), which help to keep the skin moist and supple and strengthen the skin’s protective barrier. Their regular use is a decisive success factor in the care of atopic skin and can help to prolong the phases without relapse. For children with neurodermatitis on the face, a moisturizing and replenishing facial cream (e.g. AtopiControl FACE CREAM) should be applied at least twice a day. In acute phases an improvement of the skin appearance can be achieved with an acute care cream (e.g. AtopiControl Acute Care Cream).
Among the most important ingredients in skin care for neurodermatitis:
- Omega-6 fatty acids from evening primrose seed oil and grape seed oil. They regenerate the natural protective barrier and strengthen the skin.
- Licochalcone A (an extract from the liquorice root). It is a natural ingredient that soothes the skin and reduces redness.
The medicines for the treatment of neurodermatitis in your child
Acute attacks of neurodermatitis usually require therapy with a topical drug, for the face preferably with hydrocortisone. This has an effect on the skin’s appearance during episodes and helps to reduce inflammation and itching. However, no long-term application is possible. Therefore, many parents are looking for a solution for long-term use to reduce the use of drugs, e.g. cortisone.
The skin caring properties of AtopiControl Acute Care Cream from Eucerin as SOS-help in acute phases significantly improve the skin texture and alleviate itching.
What is cortisone and how does it work? Here you can learn more about it.
Eucerin AtopiControl Anti-Itching Spray is a spray for immediate relief that can be used in addition to Eucerin AtopiControl Acute Cream, which is especially useful when travelling. It can be used in children over three years of age.
Our tips for many symptom-free days
The daily routine
Put cotton gloves on your child at night so that he or she cannot scratch themselves while sleeping.
It may help to give the child a doll to scratch to distract them from scratching their own skin.
Store the care products, e.g. AtopiControl Acute Care Cream, in the refrigerator, as the application of cool creams and lotions additionally relieves itching.
And that helps your child grow up healthy
Consult a pediatrician or dermatologist if you are unsure about your child’s skin symptoms.