This post is sponsored by Med-IQ. Supported by educational grants from Abbvie Inc., Sanofi Genzyme and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Did you know eczema or atopic dermatitis (AD) is the most common childhood illness? My youngest son Ezra has a very mild eczema diagnosis. His tends to flare in the winter, with patches of skin getting very red and itchy. Sometimes he will wake up with areas that he has scratched very raw during the night. Whenever he has a flare up, I always feel awful. It's so hard to see your kids hurting in any way.
With October being National Eczema Awareness Month, it seemed like the perfect time to discuss this illness. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, about 16.5 million adults in the U.S. have eczema or AD, with 6.6 million reporting moderate-to-severe symptoms.
Symptoms of AD include:
- Red/inflamed skin
There is tremendous variation in severity of eczema but those who suffer from moderate-to-severe AD tend to have persistent disease that comes back more frequently with significant flare ups. This disease can significantly impact an individual and their quality of life. As you can imagine or might have experienced, when children are diagnosed with moderate-to-severe AD, it can disrupt the entire family, not just the child, particularly if night-time itching impacts sleep. This lack of sleep can then impact school, learning, social interactions, leading to increased risks for anxiety and depression.
While primary care doctors can take care of 60-70% of patients, those with more severe AD should see a specialist. For those like Ezra with mild AS, good general skincare and lifestyle changes improve the disease's presentation. For instance, we find with Ezra that if we moisturize every night after his bath, his skin tends to not flare. But cold weather + a few nights without lotion and we get in trouble. In moderate-to-severe AD, the types of treatments fall into two different buckets – topical therapy and systemic treatment.
Topical therapy includes really good skincare (bathing, moisturizing after bathing, avoiding specific irritants) and anti-inflammatory topical therapies (steroids and non-steroid prescription alternatives).
Systemic treatment including new biologic agents which is the biggest break through in treatment over the last few years. This new treatment can include oral medication or injections every two weeks or every month, and currently they are approved for kids ages 6+. These treatments change our ability to manage the disease. Successful treatment allows a patient to lead a “normal life” – in the instance of kids, this would include being able to participate in regular activities like sleep overs and sports without itchiness disrupting their experience, and these new treatments can support that goal, particularly for patients who have serious disease with disruptions in their life (sleeplessness, rash over significant part of body).
Advocate for Your Child
As a parent, it is important to advocate for your child. You know better than anyone else about your child and their condition, plus can articulate in ways he or she might not be able to. A few ways you can do this, if your child has AD, include:
- Rely on trusted sources to learn about the different medicines and treatments available for AD. One good resource to review is the National Eczema Association. They even have a special section for parents.
- Engage in conversations with your child's pediatrician and ask for a referral if needed.
- Be prepared for doctor’s visits, including telemedicine, to discuss symptoms and treatment course for your child.
- Consider the full picture of AD's impact on your child’s life by tracking green days, yellow days and red days. A green day is one where you might pay attention to mitigating disease (ie. Not wearing wool sweaters, being mindful of soaps), a yellow day is a more disruptive day with the disease and a red day is the most challenging. Some parents find it helpful to use a simple calendar make a red, yellow or green dot on the calendar each day for the impact of AD on the day. Bring this calendar to doctor's appointments and/or scan to their health record.
Want access to free personalized, evidence-based texts to help you ditch the itch? Med-IQ has partnered with Pro-Change to offer up to 6 months of tailored text messages to help you manage your eczema/AD journey—from appointment prep to self-management tips.
Text the word ITCH to 401-214-9651 to start. Available for both patients and caregivers.
Learn more here.
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