Eczema is a general term for several irritating skin conditions. Although not contagious, it can occur almost anywhere on the body, including the feet, ankles, and toes of children. If you notice eczema on your child’s feet—usually rather apparent due to red or brown scaly patches and thickened skin—a skilled podiatrist can help offer much-needed relief and provide advice on how to prevent the condition from flaring up.
What Is Eczema?
Eczema is a group of chronic inflammatory skin conditions. While the condition can appear anywhere on the body, it’s often more prevalent in areas where sweat accumulates and then dries out the skin—typically you’ll find this common rash behind the knees, on the chest, and on various parts of feet and ankles.
There are three types of eczema:
- Atopic dermatitis starts in childhood. While some kids grow out of it, many continue to experience it as adults.
- Dyshidrotic eczema involves painful blisters on the feet.
- Stasis dermatitis may be caused by poor circulation in the legs.
While a specific cause for eczema is unknown, it seems more common among people with a family history of allergies or asthma—in fact, children who suffer from eczema may also have asthma or hay fever.
What Causes Eczema Flare-Ups?
Both internal and external triggers prompt eczema problems. For example, the desert heat in Arizona, especially in winter, has a drying effect on the skin, which may intensify eczema symptoms. Other possibilities causing flare-ups include:
- Food and seasonal allergies
- Irritants in soaps and laundry detergents
- Certain types of clothing
- Heightened stress
Symptoms of Eczema in Children
Characteristic signs of eczema on children’s feet include:
- Red, scaly patches of skin, including dry, itchy feet
- Persistent itchiness
- Warm skin due to inflammation
- Red to brownish-gray patches of cracked, thickened skin
- Raw, swollen, or oozing skin from scratching
Kids are frequently on the go, so eczema patches on feet and toes crack easily. This leads to more itchiness and discomfort.
Treatment for Eczema on Children’s Feet
As a chronic condition, eczema isn’t curable but there are many treatment options to reduce symptoms and offer relief. An experienced podiatrist will work with you to develop an individualized treatment plan to address your child’s specific needs.
Many of the solutions for managing eczema symptoms more effectively are aimed at reducing or preventing scratching to reduce overall irritation. They include:
- Moisturizing lotions and creams to keep skin well-hydrated
- Oatmeal baths help lock in moisture against the skin
- Corticosteroid creams or ointments to help repair the skin
- Antibiotic creams to fight bacterial infections on open sores or cracks
- Oral antihistamines to reduce allergic reactions to environmental triggers
- Oral corticosteroids like prednisone help control inflammation
- Cold compresses to relieve inflammation and reduce itching
- Wet dressings or wet wrapping to provide cooling skin relief
- UV light therapy to reduce histamine production in the skin
Tips From an AZ Podiatrist to Help Prevent Eczema in Children
A knowledgeable podiatrist can provide additional tips for children’s foot care. They encourage overall foot health to reduce pain and prevent further health complications.
- Develop a skincare routine. Keep your child’s feet clean and protected. Always dry feet thoroughly after bathing, and use a moisturizer to hydrate the skin, reducing dryness, redness, and itchiness.
- Watch their diet. Certain allergenic foods might trigger eczema symptoms. Other foods may help to reduce symptoms, like omega-3 fatty acids in salmon, vitamin D in milk, vitamin C in citrus fruits, and probiotics like yogurt. Make sure your child drinks plenty of water, too.
- Look for triggers. Switch out body soap, moisturizer, and laundry detergent. Choose gentler, unscented hypoallergenic products. Other triggers include changes in weather, increased stress, and lack of sleep.
- Choose the right shoes. The material in some shoes and socks, particularly synthetic fibers, may cause an eczema flare-up. Consult with a podiatrist for suitable recommendations.
- Opt for shorter, lukewarm showers. Hot showers and long baths dry out the skin.
- Apply an ice pack or cold cloth. This helps soothe skin that is itchy, red, or inflamed.