Ask Dr. Marla: Skin Irritations, Care and Treatment

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My 16-month-old daughter has had eczema since she was three months old. This is a skin condition that I have had my whole life. What I would like to know is, what can I do for her to keep this condition under control? Should I send her to an allergist to see if it could be something she’s eating?

A. Eczema or atopic dermatitis is often seen in young infants. It is helpful if the cause of the itch can be identified. The most common triggers include both being overheated and sweating. Known irritants, such as wool, pets and some soaps can be avoided. Stress can trigger a flare-up as well, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, food can be a trigger for some patients with eczema.

Simple steps such as applying cool compresses might be helpful to manage symptoms. Keeping the skin lubricated with cream or ointment is important. You might note that the eczema is worse in dry seasons. Prescription creams such as steroids are most effective in treating the rash. On rare occasions, your doctor might suggest an antihistamine or even an oral steroid medication.

Seeing an allergist can be helpful in trying to identify triggers, including foods, so that steps can be taken to avoid these irritants.


My three-year-old suffers from occasional cold sores, like his daddy. Is there any specific treatment that should be followed to avoid future breakouts? Will this mean that he will be prone to them for life? Thank you for your help!

A. It is important to have your child seen by a physician when he has a cold sore to document the case. Cold sores are caused by a virus belonging to the herpes family of viruses. The reason the ‘cold sore’ recurs is because after the first episode, the virus stays asleep or dormant in the nerve cells. But the virus can present itself again. Sometimes the trigger is another viral illness, such as cold or even exposure to the sun. There are creams that can be applied to the area as soon as the symptoms appear to help abort an attack. In older individuals oral medication can be used as well.

I sunburn easily and so does my husband. What is the best way to protect our new baby from the sun?

A. Babies under one year of age should be kept out of the direct sun. Keep them in the shade or in a covered stroller. They should be shielded with loose-fitting clothes and a hat. For children older than a year, remember to apply sunscreen frequently with a minimum SPF 15 or greater, at least 15 to 30 minutes prior to going outside. I also recommend using lip protection as well as hats and sunglasses. Everyone should try and avoid the sun in its peak hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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