Infantile eczema, also called atopic dermatitis, is a mild disease, but one that must be taken seriously in order to get rid of it permanently and avoid the risk of recurrence. In addition to the natural causes linked to heredity, environmental factors and urban life continue to increase the rate of children suffering from this unpleasant condition to bear.
Eczema is the most common skin disease in Western countries. It mainly affects children and is estimated to have doubled or even tripled in some areas over the past 30 years. Industrialised countries are more affected. Statistics put the figure at 15 to 30% of children affected, depending on the country, and 2 to 10% for adults.
Eczema is considered a genetic disease. Usually, it goes away around 4 to 6 years old, in eight out of ten cases. It is not contagious.
The problem with eczema is that its mechanism is not yet well established by scientists. At the moment, it is believed to be a genetic disorder that damages skin cells and the immune system, and weakens their defenses against allergens. It is also known to be influenced by stress, as well as certain chemicals that come into contact with us.
Although its process is still poorly understood, eczema is easy to detect because its symptoms are obvious. It causes dryness of the skin and produces red patches. It evolves by inflammatory outbreaks which are particularly impressive in very young children. After the age of 5, it becomes less spectacular, although it remains unpleasant.
Eczema produces red patches that may ooze. They are located everywhere on the body: shoulders, folds of the wrists, elbows, thighs, buttocks and back, as well as on the face: forehead, chin and cheeks. The skin dries up, which increases its permeability and makes it more susceptible to infections.
After the “flare ups”, the plaques form small, tight blisters, and then they turn into scabs. If the eczema is treated well, it does not leave scars. However, everything must be done so that the child does not scratch his buttons.
Throughout its onset, eczema itches the baby, who becomes irritable and has difficulty sleeping.
Doctors have seen a steady increase in eczema for decades. The most striking fact that emerges from the analysis of all the statistics collected is that the increase in cases is very disparate depending on the living environment. To begin with, it is the developed countries that are the most affected, then it is clear that children in cities are more concerned than children in the countryside.
The influence of cities and pollution
Statistics clearly define a progression of eczema in children who live in large cities. Air pollution is said to be the main culprit. Although its trend is downward in many cities, road traffic remains significant, as long as it does not decline on the outskirts. There are also factories on the outskirts of cities, as well as equipment in offices and homes: heaters, air conditioners, refrigerators, electrical appliances of all kinds that give off heat, etc. in addition captive between buildings and evacuates poorly.
In contrast, the air in the countryside circulates much better and the pollution from every single house is quickly disseminated into the atmosphere.
Children in rural areas are in contact with nature and animals. They encounter many more microorganisms and microbes that their own bodies get used to. Their immune system is therefore better “educated” compared to children who grow up in an urban environment. Their skin is thus more able to defend itself against external aggressions.
Children in the countryside live more outdoors and are also more exposed to the elements. This also has the effect of accustoming the skin cells to defend themselves, depending on various factors. In the city, and especially in large cities, the seasons are much less felt. Temperatures are less varied and exposure to wind and sun is reduced.
By building better immune defenses, rural children are logically less affected by eczema.
It appears that eczema cases are much more numerous in spring, as well as in winter. With regard to spring, the factor incriminated by researchers is pollen. During this season, airborne pollen is on the increase, even in cities that still have green spaces.
In winter, doctors tend to blame the cold, which degrades the skin's natural defenses. On the other hand, the cold tends to dry out the skin, which is an aggravating factor for children who are already fragile at this level.
Food allergies are also an aggravating factor for the development of eczema. If your baby is allergic to eggs, cow's milk protein, peanuts, or anything else, your baby is more at risk of developing eczema.
If you suspect any allergy in your infant, you must consult a pediatrician who will allow you to identify the precise origin and take measures to ensure that your child is not at risk.
Natural hygiene products versus industrial products
Last determining factor in the sensitivity of the skin in infants, the choice and frequency of use of hygiene products.
The side effects of hygiene products are increasingly criticised and it is clear that a shift has started in favor of natural and organic products. Industrial cosmetics contain chemical ingredients which are often aggressive on the skin and tend to weaken its natural defenses. It is also necessary to consider all the additives which have only a marketing purpose, but no virtue for the body. These are mainly artificial colors, emulsifiers and flavours.
Their psychological interest is undeniable, because a pretty colour and a pleasant smell influence you subconsciously. As for emulsifiers, they use an automatic association of ideas: when it foams, it cleans. It is, in fact, a feeling that does not have any serious basis.
Natural products have less beautiful colors, often smell less strongly and lather a lot less, and yet they are of great benefit to us.
On the other hand, consider the frequency of use of hygienic products and not over use it. It is important that your child is clean of course, but you must not denature his immune defenses, especially those located in the cells of the skin. It is therefore important not to apply lotion at all times, but to let your cells create their own skin barrier.
If you, your partner, or anyone in both of your families suffered from eczema in infancy, you should be extra careful when choosing your cosmetics. You can easily find organic products that are very gentle on your baby's skin today.