We spoke to CEO Joanna Gardiner for Eczema Awareness Week to learn how the condition comes about, how to treat it and when it's time to go to the doctor.

Joanna Gardiner is CEO of Irish skincare company, Elave.

What percentage of the Irish population suffer from eczema?
It can start at any time of life but is most common in childhood, affecting approximately one in five children and one in 12 adults in Ireland. 

What causes eczema?
Eczema is an immunological condition that usually appears in the first six months of a person’s life. However, eczema can develop at any time and is a very individual condition and for that reason frustrating to live with.

How can you treat it naturally - without steroids? Home remedies?
Some people find alternative treatments useful. Medical research shows that if you limit your exposure to chemicals and use clean certified natural products, without MI, a nasty preservative, and without sulfates you can treat skin eczema naturally and keep the condition at bay.

I believe parents can often find their own individual solutions and it is often a case of trial and error in getting it right. However, if the condition flares up and becomes unmanageable, you should seek advice from your GP. 

When is it time for steroids?
If the condition is persistent; if it is very angry looking or keeping your child awake at night, I recommend a visit to your GP. Your GP will be able to recommend the best skincare treatment for your child. 

Your GP will be able to recommend the best skincare treatment for your child

Are they bad for your skin long term?
Steroids have developed a bad a reputation because in the past they were over-recommended and over-used.

However, if used correctly as recommended by your GP and in addition to a moisturiser, parents can get the condition under control and then manage it day to day after that.

Steroids should always be applied thinly and accompanied by a moisturiser.

A good moisturising regime will help to keep eczema at bay and hopefully, you can switch to just moisturiser in the long-term.

Why does it sometimes move to different parts of the body?
Eczema is very individual and can appear like it is moving but, in fact, this is just the nature of eczema. Moisturising all over, even unaffected areas, can help with this.

Can eczema be seasonal?
Yes, it can flare up in winter months, particularly when we start turning on heating in houses. It can also flare on holidays as we are using more skin products and sun protection.

However, eczema runs in cycles of flare-ups. You can dramatically reduce the severity of the flare up by managing the skin condition all the time. Keep your skin care regime going every day.

Does it get better/worse with age?
As a general rule, babies improve with age and in mild to moderate cases improve by 6-8 years old. However, if eczema persists it will tend to do so right through life and not everybody grows out of it. One in twelve adults have eczema so unfortunately, the condition can persist.

Woman Scratching Her Arm Sitting on Bench at Park

How can we help kids to stop from scratching?
I recommend using Clinifast gloves and garments. The garments are breathable and comfortable to wear both at night and during the day, they prevent a child from breaking their skin as a result of scratching.

I also recommend reducing the temperature in your child’s room and you can also teach your child to rub their skin instead of itching. 

Some say don't bath daily, some say do?
I recommend following the routine that suits you best, whether you bathe your child every day or every second day, make sure to moisturise your child after every bath time.

Is it connected to allergies and asthma?
Yes, because atopic eczema is an immunological condition, it can run in families and frequently occurs alongside other atopic conditions, including hay fever and asthma. If Mum or Dad had asthma or eczema, this will make eczema more likely to develop. 

Is drying clothes indoors a trigger for asthma and eczema. 
Unfortunately in our cold climate, drying clothes indoors can’t always be avoided. I recommend using a non-bio washing power and avoiding fabric conditioner. This will remove harsh chemicals from the air and means it will be less likely that a reaction will be triggered. 

Eczema can flare up in winter months

Can diet affect eczema?
I recommend seeking medical advice when it comes to diet and managing your eczema. I suggest getting a diagnosis before removing certain food groups from your diet, and in particular when it comes to managing your child’s diet.

Is it on the increase as is the case with allergies?
Yes, the incidence of eczema is increasing. Over two generations, we have seen eczema increase from 3% in to 25% specifically in babies and children.