Certain aspects of the occurrence and course of the disease of atopic dermatitis are different in children compared to adults.
Atopic dermatitis is being observed with increasing frequency, and 15 to 20% of all children today suffer from it for at least some periods of time. The disease usually starts in infants aged six to twelve weeks. In about 50% of affected children, the disease develops before their first birthday and, in most children, symptoms develop before they are five years old.
In infants and babies, symptoms often manifest themselves as a patchy rash on the cheeks and chin that turns red, scaly and itchy, and that sometimes also weeps. However, almost all other parts of the body may be affected, too. In older children, atopic dermatitis. typically extends to the inside of the elbows and behind the knees.
The course of the disease cannot be predicted and occurs in recurrent flare-ups. However, the condition often improves as children get older and there are even cases where those affected outgrow the disease as teenagers.
The symptoms are caused by the skin being unable to adequately carry out its important protective function. The skin dries out, cracks and becomes permeable to bacteria and allergens that penetrate into the skin and cause inflammation.
The causes of this skin defect have not been conclusively clarified. A genetic predisposition is considered to be an essential factor. Atopic dermatitis and “atopic eczema” relate, on the one hand, to a predisposition to develop hypersensitivity reactions that frequently runs in families, and on to other hand, to a common association with other allergic diseases. The risk of a child developing the disease is between 20 and 40% if one parent is affected and between 60 and 80% if both parents suffer from atopic dermatitis.
In addition to this genetic predisposition, environmental factors and physical stress, infections and allergens (e.g. food, pollen, dust, animal hair) also play a role. Stressful, but also exciting events, such as starting school, may cause a flare-up of the disease or exacerbate symptoms.
The first step of any treatment is to care for and build up the skin so that it can protect itself again. This is why consistent daily skin care – even during periods without symptoms – is the most important factor in maintaining healthy skin and preventing a recurrence.
While fast-acting anti-inflammatories such as cortisone should be used to treat atopic dermatitis in acute cases, there are now also alternatives without cortisone for basic care.
The Mavena products of the itchy skin line with vitamin B12 offer a gentle option.