Atopic and contact dermatitis

Atopic and contact dermatitis

It's important to note that neither type are infectious. Atopic dermatitis is also known as atopic eczema or infantile eczema and affects people who have dry and rough skin and may be caused by a variety of allergens.
It often starts in early childhood from around 3 months old and develops in the creases of the arms and behind the knees. It is a good indication that a child will be allergic in later life and statistics shows that around half of the children who start out with atopic dermatitis go on to develop some form of rhinitis or asthma.

Eczema tends to run in atopic families (the family has a predisposition toward developing certain allergic hypersensitivity reactions). It is often the first allergic disorder to appear as well as be resolved and in most cases it goes into remission by the age of 10. For the minority who continue with it or get a reoccurrence in adulthood, atopic dermatitis can also affect the skin around the eyes, including the eyelids.

Possible causes can be a food allergy in children under one. Common allergens in these cases tend to be cow's milk, chicken's eggs and peanuts. As the child gets older house dust mites are commonly known to aggravate the eczema and this is also the case in adults. Pet dander such as that produced by cats and dogs is thought to play a role.

Contact dermatitis is inflammation of the skin that occurs when you come into contact with a particular substance and mainly affects adults. There are two types; allergic contact and irritant contact. The latter is not an allergic response. In allergic contact dermatitis the skin becomes sensitised to a substance, which is normally harmless, over time and when the body is re-exposed and allergic reaction is induced, this is an immune response.

The most common causes of allergic contact dermatitis are thought to be nickel in jewellery and on clothing fasteners and studs; building materials such as cement, solvents, glues and rubber and certain ingredients found in cosmetics, hair dyes and perfumes.

Where the eczema is mild it presents itself as a slightly irritated patch of sore skin however if it becomes severe it can be widespread and can be inflamed and very itchy. As a result of the blotchy appearance and discomfort, some people develop mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and can have problems with low self esteem. This can ultimately lead to them having difficulties functioning at school or work.

People with eczema are also more prone to other skin conditions such as herpes and wart infections.
In cases of atopic eczema, a skin-prick tests for environmental and food allergens can be carried out to determine the particular allergen. Once identified measures can be taken to avoid it.

In terms of managing eczema, moisturising is key even if there have been no flare ups of symptoms by using emollients or moisturising creams.

Atopic eczema sufferers should bathe regularly and use liberal amounts of emollients to soften and hydrate the skin. Water based emollients without perfume and added lanolin are best.

Equally important is putting all washed clothes through a double rinse cycle in order to remove any residual detergent that might be left in fabric as the eczema could be related to contact with the detergent.

Allergenic foods identified by skin or blood tests should be avoided at all costs. Some measures to control the environment in order to minimise the impact of airborne allergens should be put in place.

If after implementing the controls highlighted above a recurring rash is experienced, medication may be necessary. For active rashes it is common to use corticosteroids for between 7 to 10 days. They are known to be effective in reducing itching and redness. If medication is needed to manage the eczema then a doctor should be consulted.


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