Conventional remedy: Eczema affects about 15 per cent of children and usually begins between two and 18 months of age. It often runs in families which have a history of asthma and hayfever, pointing to an allergic predisposition to the condition.
In smaller babies, it affects the skin on the cheeks, the chest and the groin area. Older children often get eczema in the folds of the skin - front of elbows, backs of knees, the neck and feet.
About 70 per cent of eczematous children grow out of the condition by 11 years. In the meantime, eczema waxes and wanes.
Scratching frequently results in secondary infection by a bug called Staph.aureus. When this happens, an oral antibiotic may be needed. The primary reason for eczema is excessively dry skin; avoiding soap and using aqueous cream in its place helps to counteract this. A 50-/50 mixture of white soft paraffin/liquid paraffin should be applied at least twice daily.
In severe cases of eczema, your doctor may prescribe steroid cream. Parents worry about using steroids, but there is usually no problem if they are used sparingly and under medical supervision. By using the lowest potency necessary to control the condition, for the shortest time possible, side effects such as thinning of the skin will be avoided.
Finally, to stop scratching which leads to infection and a flare up, your doctor may recommend a sedative antihistamine syrup which will ensure sleep and stop night-time itching.
You might also find it helpful to visit your local practice-nurse for some tuition on the application of creams and bandages and for detailed information on eczema.
Alternative remedy: Homoeopathy is frequently not the first choice of treatment by a parent whose child has eczema. This means that, very often, when we are visited by a child suffering from this complaint we are faced with a health problem that may have been exacerbated by another regime of treatment, one which is not serving to prevent the condition from flaring up.
Diet, allergies and stress can all contribute to a worsening of symptoms. Many parents will already be familiar with the trigger patterns for their children, yet even cautious observance may not prevent the eczema becoming a recurrent problem.
Therefore, when developing a plan for the treatment of the child, the homoeopath will take note of the patient's and the parent's experience to date, as well as the known triggers. Additionally, the homoeopath will want to know about any other conditions the child has, or has had, and what types of illnesses are typical of the wider family.
All of this information is taken into account as indicators of the child's constitution, and a homoeopathic remedy which will be curative will be selected on that basis. I would be ill-advised, therefore, to suggest a remedy which would benefit your child without first having detail of the symptoms or nature of the flare-up.
However, there are alternative topical creams available which may help to ease the discomfort suffered in the short term. For example, I would suggest a graphites ointment is appropriate when there are some types of discharge from the skin, but a petroleum-based ointment can be used if a feature of the eczema is cracked skin.
Homoeopath Karen Doherty
The Irish Society of Homoeopaths can be contacted on tel: 091-565040 on Monday-Thursday, 9.30 a.m. - 12.30 p.m.