Eczema can have a major impact on children's lives, with most experiencing disrupted sleep and some missing up to two days of school per month because of the skin condition, according to a survey by the Irish Skin Foundation.
Eczema causes a dry, red itchy rash on the skin, which may appear scaly, weep, bleed or crust over. The condition affects one in five children in Ireland and one in 12 adults.
This month is Eczema Awareness Month and as part of this, the Irish Skin Foundation is highlighting the results of a recent survey it carried out, which involved 454 people with the condition or caring for someone affected.
According to the findings, 26% of parents/carers of children with eczema said that their child misses one or two days of school per month because of the condition. A further 86% of parents said that their child's sleep is disrupted.
The foundation is raising awareness of the condition in partnership with La Roche-Posay, and according to research it carried out last year involving over 1,000 adults, over half of parents said they have very little information about how best to look after their child's skin.
Atopic eczema occurs when the skin's protective barrier is weakened. This allows moisture to be lost and irritants and allergens to pass through the skin more easily. Some everyday substances, such as soap, bubble bath, shampoo and laundry detergents may irritate the skin and should be avoided. Instead, soap-free and specially formulated products should be used.
"The disruption and stress that moderate and severe atopic eczema can cause is very clear from the findings of our recent survey. Our work with families impacted by eczema, particularly at this time of the year as the school term starts back, focuses on supporting people to re-establish care routines that will strengthen the skin barrier.
"This is quite important in advance of the weather cooling and central heating being turned on again in the autumn, both of which challenge vulnerable skin and can lead to flares," explained Irish Skin Foundation CEO, David McMahon.
According to consultant dermatologist with La Roche-Posay, Dr Niki Ralph, the physical effects of eczema, including painful, inflamed, itchy and cracked skin, "may also result in a range of hidden psychological impacts".
For example, disrupted sleep can impact a child's concentration in school.
"Regular emollient therapy, such as the use of specially formulated moisturisers, is the cornerstone of the management and treatment of eczema," Dr Ralph noted.
The Irish Skin Foundation provides plenty of simple tips and resources for anyone who wants to establish a new skin barrier care routine. Click here for more information.
It also operates a free helpline with access to a specialist dermatology nurse, who can provide one-to-one guidance about a range of skin conditions and problems. Call (01) 486 6280, Monday to Friday, 10.30am to 4.30pm.
Meanwhile, the Irish Skin Foundation will host SkinSideOut, a free public health information exhibition on Saturday, November 16, in the Science Gallery of Trinity College Dublin.
SkinSideOut is open to anyone struggling to manage the everyday challenges of living with chronic, inflammatory skin conditions, such as eczema, psoriasis, acne and rosacea. The event will include talks and panel discussions given by expert medical speakers and patient advocates.
For more information or to register your interest, click here.