If a skin condition is caused by an allergy, the area affected will be linked to that allergy, for example someone who is allergic to a certain type of food will have a reaction when eating it or a very fast reaction around the mouth and throat.
Food allergy can be linked to around 7% of patients with eczema. It mostly affects infants and young children under the age of three years old. A cow’s milk allergy is amongst the most common foods that cause type 1 reactions – you can find more information about this on the PCDS website. 1
Allergic contact dermatitis is a skin condition triggered by an allergy. It can be caused by an allergic reaction to a material in contact with the skin. First contact doesn’t always lead to an allergy, sometimes a patient can touch the same thing for many months or years without having a reaction. 2
- Primary Care Dermatology Society (PCDS). (2016). Food allergy (including cow's milk protein allergy). [accessed April 2017] via http://www.pcds.org.uk/clinical-guidance/food-allergy
- Primary Care Dermatology Society (PCDS). (2014). Eczema: contact allergic dermatitis (including latex and rubber allergy). [accessed April 2017] via http://www.pcds.org.uk/clinical-guidance/eczema-contact-allergic-dermatitis-including-latex-and-rubber-allergy
Though topical steroids do have some side effects (like thinning of the skin), when used properly they can be a very effective treatment for some dry and itchy skin conditions. They have been available since the 1950s with a relatively good record of safety and efficacy, and can be used by most adults and children. 3
- NHS Choices. (2016). Topical Corticosteroids. [accessed April 2017] via http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/corticosteroid-preparations-(topical)/Pages/Introduction.aspx
Emollient should ideally be applied to the skin 3–4 times a day. For eczema sufferers, adults should use at least 500g of emollient every week, and children should use at least 250g a week. Eczema patients should follow the instruction provided in the product's information leaflet for frequency of application.
Some common dry and itchy skin conditions, such as eczema or psoriasis aren’t contagious, so they won't be passed on by being in contact with other people.
Paraffin is a type of moisturiser found in some skincare products. It creates a protective layer on the skin that helps the skin retain moisture and stay hydrated.
Patients who’ve been prescribed large quantities of (>100g) of paraffin-based products should be advised to regularly change clothing, bedding or dressings impregnated with the product and keep away from naked flames, as there is a fire hazard.
It can be hard to help schools understand the impact that dry and itchy skin can have on a child’s life. Talking to a child’s teacher right at the start of term and asking if the school can work with the parents to create a feasible management plan for a child can help to keep their routine consistent.
Advise parents to explain vital information to the school – the condition the child has, what triggers it and what the child needs to do to manage their skin during the day. There are also some practical things the school could do to help, like making sure the child has a desk out of direct sunlight or away from radiators and keeping an emollient pump dispenser at school.
The National Eczema Society has some helpful information on talking to schools about a child’s skin condition.
Some skin conditions do tend to run in families, this can help explain why some people are more prone to them than others.
It’s very hard to predict if skin conditions will be passed onto children, because we can’t control which genes we pass onto our children. 4
- Cole G. (2016). MedicineNet. Dry Skin. [accessed April 2017] via http://www.medicinenet.com/dry_skin/page2.htm
Lanolin is a wax derived from sheep’s wool which comprises of oils that have a similar chemical composition to those that are found in our skin. For this reason, Lanolin is used in lots of emollient products as it can help skin retain water by forming a barrier across the surface to reduce moisture loss. 5
Decades ago the wool used to derive Lanolin was not sufficiently purified and traces of impurities were left in the Lanolin, which caused some people to be sensitive to creams that included the ingredient. 6
However, in an epidemiological study carried out on 825,000 people, the frequency of Lanolin allergy was estimated to be as little as 0.0006% (5 to 6 per million), in other words very few people were shown to be sensitive to Lanolin itself. 6 Certain people can be allergic to Lanolin, which has been associated with an allergy to sheep’s wool, and so people who have a known wool allergy should not use Lanolin.
Some creams, including E45, contain an ingredient called Medilan™. This is a highly purified form of Lanolin with similar moisturising properties – but it’s also hypoallergenic, so it’s unlikely to cause sensitisation. 7
- The Open University. (2007). Lanolin, Wool and Hand Cream. [accessed April 2017] via http://www.open.edu/openlearn/science-maths-technology/science/chemistry/lanolin-wool-and-hand-cream
- Kligman AM. (1999). The myth of lanolin allergy: lanolin is not a contact sensitizer – The Lanolin Book. Paul Beiersdorf. Westbrook Lanolin Company and Beiersdorf AG
- Stone L. (2000). Br J Nurs. 9(1): 54-57