Could clean clothes be drying out and irritating your skin?
According to Skin Immunology and Allergy Specialist Assoc. Dr. Ayhan Söğüt laundry detergents and fabric softeners could be to blame. Such chemical cleaning agents can trigger the chronic inflammatory skin disorder eczema in children, causing symptoms like redness, itching and dryness of the skin, he warned.
Speaking about childhood or infantile eczema, or atopic dermatitis as it is called in the field of medicine, Söğüt said the chemicals used in detergents and softeners were irritant allergens, and hence very likely to cause such skin reactions.
Pointing out that the allergic disease's prevalence usually skyrockets in the summer months and relapses over time, the immunologist said atopic dermatitis was the most common form of eczema observed in infants and children.
"Open sores from eczema can be observed on the cheeks, torso, arms and legs of babies during infancy, and in older children, such blisters and wounds can be seen especially on the limbs. The disease is recurrent, and it manifests itself as redness (erythema), itching (pruritus) and skin dryness (xeroderma)," he said.
The doctor also cautioned against dressing children in rough fabrics like wool or synthetic fabrics like polyester and nylon.
"Do not dress your children in rough fabrics like wool or synthetic fabrics that will cause sweating. Keep them away from stuffed and dyed toys. Wash your children's laundry as instructed by specialists. Avoid powder detergents, bleach and fabric softener. Choose non-perfumed residue-free detergents for sensitive skin. Do not dress your children in newly-bought clothes without washing them first or cutting their labels."
Söğüt said that the first step parents should take is to take their children to a child immunology and allergy specialist for allergy tests.
Underscoring that it was important to keep away from the identified allergens, the doctor said food allergies can also be the culprit behind eczema flares.
Parents should be cautious with milk, eggs, fish, wheat, nuts, soy, lentils, and sesame as well as respiratory allergens, such as house dust, pollen, mold, cat or dog fur and hair, he added.
Eliminating skin dryness, reducing itching and protecting the patient from triggering factors is crucial in treatment, Söğüt emphasized.
"The hot and humid weather in summer and sweating can cause flare-ups. Taking tepid baths daily, moisturizing the whole body after baths, taking antiperspirant measures and keeping the child away from hot environments is advised," he said, adding that it was important to use anti-allergic bath products for children with eczema.
Söğüt also warned that there will be periods when the eczema gets worse with flaky skin and painful blisters, and also where it subsides. During flare-ups, allergy creams and moisturizers should be used to relieve the child's symptoms. In calmer periods, creams with moisturizing ingredients could be used to protect the skin, he added.