What Causes Infection In Eczema
The commonest cause of infection in eczema is a bacterium known as Staphylococcus aureus. It thrives on the weepy, broken skin of eczema. When infected, there may be over 100 million bacteria on a patch of eczema just the size of a finger nail.
It is now known that Staphylococcus aureus is found on the skin of virtually everyone with atopic eczema, even when there are no obvious signs of infection or eczema, whereas it occurs on the skin of less than 1% of people who do not have eczema. Recent studies have shown that Staphylococcus aureus can trigger off eczema in areas of the body away from the bacteria. For example if the bacteria are found on the forearm, it can cause a flare up of eczema in the crease of the elbow joint.
There is growing scientific evidence that infection with Staphylococcus aureus makes atopic eczema worse and hinders healing. The number of bacteria on the skin has been found to multiply with the increasing severity of the eczema. Staphylococcus aureus has been shown to produce toxins which trigger an exaggerated reaction from the bodys defence system. It is thought that this over-reaction itself causes part of the problem.
This process is rather like a large, over-enthusiastic army fighting against a few invaders, and trampling the ground to pieces in the process!
Treatments For Weeping Eczema
If your skin is weeping and infected, your treatment will depend on the type of infection you have.
Bacterial infections are usually treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics may be administered as a cream, ointment, tablet, or syrup. Sometimes, antibiotics are given along with a topical steroid.
Viral infections are typically treated with antiviral tablets. If your viral infection is severe, you may need to receive these medicines intravenously in a hospital setting.
Fungal infections are helped with antifungal creams or ointments. These are usually combined with topical steroids.
Its important that you continue to take your usual oral or topical medicines for eczema unless your doctor tells you to stop treatment.
Food Allergy And Eczema Flare
- Food allergies are a factor in 30% of young children with severe eczema. This factor is mainly seen in babies.
- The main allergic foods are cow’s milk and eggs.
- The main symptoms are increased skin redness and itching. Some parents report these symptoms start during or soon after the feeding.
- The eczema becomes easier to control if you avoid the allergic food.
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What Is Baby Eczema
Eczema is a dry, itchy skin rash that can appear anywhere on the body, but it commonly appears on the face and limbs. Anyone can have eczema, including infants.
Eczema in babies is very common. It affects 25% of children, 60% of whom develop it in their first year of life. While the condition can be lifelong, some children outgrow it.
Some things tend to make people more prone to developing eczema, including:
- Family history of eczema
- Family history of hay fever, allergies, or asthma
- Living in a cold, damp climate
- Exposure to environmental irritants
- Having an overactive immune system
Black children in the United States are 1.7 times more likely to develop eczema than White children. It is unknown why eczema disproportionately impacts Black children, but theories include disparate access to health care and that darker skin may mask the rash, resulting in later diagnosis.
What Questions Might My Healthcare Provider Ask To Diagnose Eczema
The conversation with your healthcare provider will need to cover a lot of information. Be sure to be specific about your symptoms.
- Where is your eczema located?
- What have you used to try to treat your eczema?
- What medical conditions do you have? Allergies? Asthma?
- Is there a history of eczema in your family?
- How long have you had symptoms of eczema?
- Do you take hot showers?
- Is there anything that makes your symptoms worse?
- Have you noticed that something triggers or worsens your eczema? Soaps? Detergents? Cigarette smoke?
- Is there so much itchiness that you have trouble sleeping? Working? Living your normal life?
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What Is Eczema Herpeticum
Eczema herpeticum appears more commonly on children with atopic dermatitis. Image courtesy of DermNet New Zealand
Eczema herpeticum is an infection usually caused by the herpes simplex 1 virus or oral herpes the virus that causes cold sores to appear around and inside the mouth. These cold sores can appear on other places on the body, also.
Eczema herpeticum affects people with atopic dermatitis and other inflammatory skin diseases. The eczema herpeticum infection can be very serious, especially when it spreads over wide areas of skin.
How Is A Skin Infection Treated
Medicine is required to clear the infection. The type of medicine will vary with the type of germ causing the infection. An antibiotic is necessary to treat an infection caused by bacteria, such as a staph or strep infection. Some antibiotics you apply to the skin. Others come in pill form.
A virus often requires an anti-viral medicine like acyclovir.
A fungal infection may be treated with an anti-fungal cream. Sometimes stronger medicine is necessary to treat an infection caused by a fungus.
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Emollients For Treating Eczema
Emollient creams add moisture to the skin. Apply moisturisers each day to clean, dry skin. It is especially important to moisturise after showering and bathing, and when living or working in an air-conditioned or heated environment. You may need to try several different brands until you find the emollient that works best for you. Ask your doctor, dermatologist or pharmacist for advice.
Causes And Risk Factors Of Eczema
Skin affected by eczema is unable to retain moisture well, possibly because of low production of fats and oils. It is also caused by a disrupted skin barrier, allowing whatever moisture the skin has to freely evaporate into the air. This causes it to become dry and lose its protective properties.
It’s not clear what causes certain people to develop eczema, specifically atopic dermatitis.
Children are more likely to develop eczema if other allergic diseases such as hay fever and asthma run in the family, which suggests that there may be a genetic component to the condition. Read more about conditions related to eczema below.
Though dermatologists dont necessarily consider eczema an autoimmune disorder, the symptoms of atopic dermatitis are thought to be the result of an immune system overreaction or dysfunction.
Indian Journal of Dermatology
In addition to genetic and immune system factors, environmental factors also play a role in worsening or triggering eczema.
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Is Eczema Different For Infants Toddlers And Older Children
A painful, itchy rash on a babys face, torso or body may be eczema
Eczema looks and acts differently in infants and toddlers than it does in older children. The location and appearance of eczema changes as they grow, so its important to know what to look for during every stage of your infant or toddlers life.
Triggers Of Eczema Flare
- Soaps. Never use bubble bath. It can cause a major flare-up.
- Pollens. Keep your child from lying on the grass during grass pollen season.
- Animals. Avoid any animals that make the rash worse.
- Foods. If certain foods cause severe itching , avoid them.
- Wool. Avoid wool fibers and clothes made of other scratchy, rough materials.
- Dry Air. Use a humidifier if the air in your home is dry.
- Herpes Virus Infection . Keep your child away from anyone with fever blisters . The herpes virus can cause a serious skin infection in children with eczema.
- Eczema is not caused by laundry soap you use to wash clothing.
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How Is Eczema Diagnosed What Tests Are Done
Your healthcare provider will take a close look at your skin. They will look for classic signs of eczema such as a redness and dryness. They will ask about the symptoms youre experiencing.
Usually your healthcare provider will be able to diagnose eczema based on examining your skin. However, when there is doubt, they may perform the following tests:
- An allergy skin test.
- Blood tests to check for causes of the rash that might be unrelated to dermatitis.
- A skin biopsy to distinguish one type of dermatitis from another.
Signs Of An Infection
Occasionally, areas of skin affected by atopic eczema can become infected. Signs of an infection can include:
- your eczema getting a lot worse
- fluid oozing from the skin
- a yellow crust on the skin surface or small yellowish-white spots appearing in the eczema
- the skin becoming swollen and sore
- feeling hot and shivery and generally feeling unwell
See a doctor as soon as possible if you think your or your child’s skin may have become infected.
Page last reviewed: 05 December 2019 Next review due: 05 December 2022
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Ways To Prevent Baby Eczema
Eczema itself cannot be prevented, but knowing and avoiding triggers can help prevent flare-ups of the condition.
Some ways to reduce triggers include:
- Keep your child out of cold, dry air.
- If they are 6 months or older, make sure your child gets an annual flu shot.
- Read labels on products to help your family avoid common irritants.
- Double-rinse your laundry to remove detergent residue.
Eczema Coping Tips Reducing Skin Irritation
People with eczema have sensitive skin. Irritants such as heat or detergents can easily trigger a bout of eczema.Suggestions for reducing skin irritation include:
- Avoid overheating your skin. Wear several layers of clothing that you can remove, as required, instead of one heavy layer. Dont put too many blankets on your bed and avoid doonas.
- Dont use perfumed bubble bath or bath products labelled medicated.
- Wear soft, smooth materials next to your skin, preferably 100% cotton. Avoid scratchy materials, such as pure wool, polyester or acrylic. You could try a cotton and synthetic mix material this is fine for some people with eczema. Remove labels from clothing.
- Always wear protective gloves when using any type of chemical or detergent. You may want to wear cotton gloves inside rubber or PVC gloves.
- Avoid chlorinated pools. If you have to swim in a chlorinated pool, moisturise your skin well when you get out.
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Dont Let The Infection Run The Show
Infection is a complication of eczema, but infections themselves carry their own risks. It can be difficult for an eczema flare-up to heal while theres an infection on the scene.
Along with cases of infected eczema, there may also be heightened discomfort when it comes to itching, pain, and blisters or sores on the skin. In some cases, skin infections can cause abscesses and swelling.
When exposed to the herpes simplex virus, people with eczema may be at risk of developing eczema herpeticum, a condition that characteristically has little punched out cookie-cutter-like yellowish erosions and tenderness in the skin, sometimes accompanied by flu-like symptoms.
This condition is very serious, so if its suspected then call your doctor ASAP.
One of the most serious complications that can occur as a result of infected eczema is sepsis .
Sepsis occurs when a severe infection, such as staph, is left untreated for too long and seeps into the bloodstream. This can lead to all sorts of problems, including organ failure and even death.
Try To Reduce The Damage From Scratching
Eczema is often itchy and it can be very tempting to scratch the affected areas of skin. But scratching usually damages the skin, which can itself cause more eczema to occur.
The skin eventually thickens into leathery areas as a result of chronic scratching. Deep scratching also causes bleeding and increases the risk of your skin becoming infected or scarred.
Try to reduce scratching whenever possible. You could try gently rubbing your skin with your fingers instead. If your baby has atopic eczema, anti-scratch mittens may stop them scratching their skin.
Keep your nails short and clean to minimise damage to the skin from unintentional scratching. Keep your skin covered with light clothing to reduce damage from habitual scratching.
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What Are The Signs & Symptoms Of Eczema
The signs of eczema :
- are mainly dry, itchy skin. Because it is so itchy, it is often called “the itch that rashes.”
- include redness, scales, and bumps that can leak fluid and then crust over
- tend to come and go. When they get worse, it is called a flare-up.
- may be more noticeable at night
Symptoms can vary:
- Infants younger than 1 year old usually have the eczema rash on their cheeks, forehead, or scalp. It may spread to the knees, elbows, and trunk .
- Older kids and teens usually get the rash in the bends of the elbows, behind the knees, on the neck, or on the inner wrists and ankles. Their skin is often scalier and drier than when the eczema first began. It also can be thicker, darker, or scarred from all the scratching .
Research And Statistics: Who Has Eczema How Many People Have Eczema
Eczema can occur at any age, but it typically begins in infancy and early childhood.
Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology
National survey data suggest the one-year prevalence of atopic dermatitis among American adults was 10.2 percent in 2010 and 7.2 percent in 2012. But the surveys used different questions: The former referred to “dermatitis, eczema, or any other red, inflamed skin rash” and the latter to “eczema or skin allergy.”
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What Should I Do If My Baby Has Weeping Eczema
If your babys eczema starts to weep, call your healthcare provider so they can help get it under control. To ease symptoms, you can apply steroid cream or ointments. You may also want to consider giving your baby antihistamines for a few days to relieve itching.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Typical eczema is itchy and inconvenient. But when it begins to weep, it becomes a more serious health problem. If you develop weeping eczema, schedule a visit with your healthcare provider right away. Timely treatment will clear up your infection and reduce painful symptoms so you can get back to normal life.
Eczema Coping Tips Diet
In most cases, eczema isnt caused or made worse by diet. If you notice that your eczema seems to get worse after eating a particular food, you may be an exception to this. See your doctor or dietitian for proper allergy testing and dietary advice.Never self-diagnose or you risk depriving yourself of enjoyable and nutritious foods for no good reason. Unnecessarily avoiding certain foods can lead to nutritional deficiencies.
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What Can I Expect If Ive Been Diagnosed With Eczema
Nearly half of children with eczema will outgrow the condition or experience great improvement by the time they reach puberty. Others will continue to have some form of the disease. For adults with eczema, the disease can be generally well-managed with good skin care and treatment, although flare-ups of symptoms can occur throughout life.
What Is A Staph Infection
According to the Mayo Clinic, staph infections are caused by staphylococcus bacteria, a type of germ commonly found on the skin or in the nose .
Although most staph infections results in skin infections, bacteria invading into other organs can cause life threatening forms of staph. This is why treating a staph infection is extremely important.
If you believe you might be suffering from an eczema staph infection, please seek medical professional help immediately.
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Causes Of Atopic Eczema
Atopic eczema is likely to be caused by a combination of things.
People with atopic eczema often have very dry skin because their skin is unable to retain much moisture.
This dryness may make the skin more likely to react to certain triggers, causing it to become red and itchy.
You may be born with an increased likelihood of developing atopic eczema because of the genes you inherit from your parents.
Research has shown children who have 1 or both parents with atopic eczema, or who have other siblings with eczema, are more likely to develop it themselves.
Atopic eczema is not infectious, so it cannot be passed on through close contact.
How Can I Reduce My Risk Of Eczema
There are steps you can take that may prevent eczema outbreaks:
- Establish a skin care routine, and follow your healthcare professionals recommendations for keeping your skin healthy.
- Wear gloves for jobs where you have to put your hands in water. Wear cotton gloves under plastic gloves to absorb sweat, and wear gloves outside, especially during the winter months.
- Use mild soap for your bath or shower, and pat your skin dry instead of rubbing. Apply a moisturizing cream or ointment immediately after drying your skin to help seal in the moisture. Reapply cream or ointment two to three times a day.
- Take baths or showers with tepid rather than hot.
- Drink at least eight glasses of water each day. Water helps to keep your skin moist.
- Try to avoid getting too hot and sweaty.
- Wear loose clothes made of cotton and other natural materials. Wash new clothing before wearing. Avoid wool.
- Avoid sudden changes in temperature and humidity.
- Learn to recognize stress in your life and how to manage it. Regular aerobic exercise, hobbies and stress-management techniques, such as meditation or yoga, might help.
- Limit your exposure to known irritants and allergens.
- Avoid scratching or rubbing itchy areas of skin.
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