Eczema is a skin disease which causes a great deal of mental anguish, as well as inconvenience, and yet it is one of the commonest of skin diseases. Its origin is difficult to discover … perhaps some chemical irritant, over-exposure to sunlight, or a combination of factors.
One thing is certain. Eczema is not due to infection by any germ. It is an inflammation caused by an irritation which would not affect the average person, but which does affect those with a special sensitiveness, particularly when the individual is suffering from nervous fatigue.
ECZEMA ACCOMPANIED BY INFECTION
Infection sometimes enters the skin after its resistance has been lowered by the eczema. In “weeping eczema” serum oozes from the skin, and as this gradually dries into crusts, it becomes “crusted” eczema. A certain germ may invade the affected parts producing another condition known as impetigo, in which varying numbers of yellow scabs occur, most commonly on the face. Impetigo is very contagious, spreading easily to other parts of the body, as well as from person to person.
BABY ECZEMA OR INFANTILE ECZEMA
This may affect babies during the first two years of life. Patches occur on the face and forehead, and may spread to other parts of the body. Food allergy may be a factor.
The middle-aged and elderly are the main sufferers from varicose eczema; but it occurs also in younger persons suffering from varicose veins. Unsuitable dressings may make it worse, causing the inflammation to spread.
SOAP MAY BE THE CAUSE
If no chemical substance, plant, or physical irritation can be found which could cause eczema, it may be the repeated use of soap containing some chemical irritant. A soap used without ill-effect by the average person may easily cause eczema when used by those with a sensitive skin.
SOME SKIN CONDITIONS
Rashes and skin irritations are very common in childhood, especially in infancy. Many newborn babies develop red sore buttocks which may even become ulcerated if neglected. Usually, this is caused by failure to change diapers frequently enough or to incorrect laundering of the diapers or to inadequate cleaning of the buttocks.
In bathing the baby, make sure the soap is not irritating and that it is washed off completely. If the skin is reddened, clean the buttocks with oil and omit soap altogether. Similar, in washing the diapers, make sure they are well rinsed. Any form of diarrhea will irritate the buttocks. An excess of carbohydrate in the feeding will cause a similar condition.
Redness, scaling and irritation of the skin is sometimes due to an accumulation of oil secretion around the hair follicles. The commonest manifestation of this is so-called cradle-cap. If untreated, this will spread from the head to the face and body.The best way to deal with this is to remove the scale thoroughly with oil or vaseline which may be left on during the night and removed with a non-irritating soap in the morning.
Redness and moistness or chafing in the creases of the skin occurs particularly in fat babies. It is most likely to happen in hot weather, but is mainly due to failure to remove all the soap from those areas during the bath and to improper drying afterwards, leaving the creases moist. The use of dusting powder in addition to removing soap and dry thoroughly will prevent chafing.
Sweat rashes occur mainly on the trunk and are most troublesome in babies. The only measures one can take are to adjust the clothing and to sponge and change the baby frequently.
Hives are very common. They are hot, raised, red areas on the surface of the skin, often having a blister in the center. They are very irritable and vary greatly in size. The child scratches them, opens them and they become infected. They are commonly caused by an allergy to some plant or food. If the child has many attacks of hives, one can try to find the allergic agent by making a list of the foodstuffs eaten for 48 hours before the hives appear.
Impetigo or “school sores” appears mostly when children are in contact with one another. It consists of pimples which become pustules and then open sores. It is contagious and can be spread from one part of the body to another. The skin must be kept clean, and the sores covered with an antiseptic and a dressing until healed.
Baby eczema or infantile eczema is another complain of childhood. It is an allergic condition usually developing when the baby is weaned. It consists of small blisters which are intensely irritable. It progresses through a stage of weeping to formation of crusts and then scales. If you suspect that your child has infantile eczema, consult your doctor for diagnosis and treatment. It is wise to seek medical advice when any rash is extensive or disturbing to the child.