Merck Manuals Unveils Answers to Parents' Most Common Eczema Questions

Friday, October 25, 2019 General News
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Dermatologist details most effective treatment methods and other conditions to watch out for

KENILWORTH, N.J., Oct. 24, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- One in five children suffer from eczema and the itchy, red, scaly, and dry patches of skin that come with it. And most often, it affects infants and young children. Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, can be embarrassing for older children and adults and can be an early warning sign of other conditions, including asthma and seasonal allergies. Patients and parents often have questions about what an eczema diagnosis means for their child and how best to keep the condition in check.

Mercedes E. Gonzalez, MD, author of the Merck Manuals chapter on eczema, Clinical Assistant Professor of Dermatology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, and Medical Director at the Pediatric Dermatology of Miami, answered some of parents' most pressing questions about the condition in a recent editorial.

How can I tell if my child's rash is eczema?

There are three tell-tale signs of eczema:

  • The location: In children under two, eczema tends to show up on the face and extensor surfaces of the extremities. For older kids and adults, it's more commonly found in the folds of elbows and knees and on the hands.
  • The itch: Eczema tends to be itchier than other skin conditions such as psoriasis.
  • The flare-ups: Eczema is chronic, which means it comes and goes over time.
Is eczema an allergy?

Eczema is not an allergic reaction to a specific food or substance. For example, in most cases, simply removing baby formula or other food like dairy from the diet will not eliminate the eczema. Yet kids with the skin condition are more likely to develop food allergies later in life as well as asthma in childhood and seasonal allergies in adolescence. Parents and pediatricians should pay close attention to this progression, often called the "atopic march."

Is eczema genetic?

Eczema  has a genetic component. Children are much more likely to have eczema if a parent or sibling has it.

What causes eczema flare ups?

The most common environmental triggers are sweat and heat. Other factors vary by individual, but can include:

  • Contact with rough fabrics like wool and carpet
  • Dust mites
  • Animal dander
  • Strong fragrances
  • Stress
How should I treat my child's eczema?

Because eczema is chronic, flare-ups will happen. Parents should focus on prolonging the amount of time between these flare-ups. In addition to avoiding triggers, here are three things parents can do:

  • Take good care of the skin: Bathe only once a day with a gentle cleanser (not strong soap) and cool water.
  • Apply skin treatments: After bathing, apply a moisturizer. Pediatricians typically also prescribe a corticosteroid ointment or cream to be used once or twice a day. Use the treatments until the signs of eczema are completely gone.
  • Watch for early signs of a flare-up: Often skin becomes itchy before spots develop. Watch for areas where children are scratching or complaining about. Treating those flare-ups early can minimize the amount of medication needed.
Are corticosteroids dangerous?

Corticosteroids, often known as steroids, are an important component of many eczema treatment strategies. Using a lot of corticosteroids on the skin for a long time can cause adverse effects, particularly in infants. However, when used in the appropriate dosage for the right amount of time, the potential for side effects is minimal.

Parents should also know that there are also a number of new eczema treatment options currently being researched and developed. It's important to have regular conversations with a pediatrician, dermatologist or skin specialist about emerging treatment options and how eczema changes as children get older.

About The Merck Manuals and MSD Manuals

First published in 1899 as a small reference book for physicians and pharmacists, The Merck Manual grew in size and scope to become one of the world's most widely used comprehensive medical resources for professionals and consumers. As The Manual evolved, it continually expanded the reach and depth of its offerings to reflect the mission of providing the best medical information to a wide cross-section of users, including medical professionals and students, veterinarians and veterinary students, and consumers. In 2015, The Manuals kicked off Global Medical Knowledge 2020, a program to make the best current medical information accessible by up to three billion professionals and patients around the world by 2020. For access to thousands of medical topics with images, videos and a constantly expanding set of resources, visit or and connect with us on social media:For Consumers in the U.S. and its territories: Twitter and FacebookFor Professionals in the U.S. and its territories: Twitter and Facebook

About Merck

For more than a century, Merck, a leading global biopharmaceutical company known as MSD outside of the United States and Canada, has been inventing for life, bringing forward medicines and vaccines for many of the world's most challenging diseases. Through our prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies and animal health products, we work with customers and operate in more than 140 countries to deliver innovative health solutions. We also demonstrate our commitment to increasing access to health care through far-reaching policies, programs and partnerships. Today, Merck continues to be at the forefront of research to advance the prevention and treatment of diseases that threaten people and communities around the world - including cancer, cardio-metabolic diseases, emerging animal diseases, Alzheimer's disease and infectious diseases including HIV and Ebola. For more information, visit and connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn.

Media ContactJoe McIntyreBraithwaite Communications(215) 564-3200 ext. 112 

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SOURCE Merck Manuals

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