Donya Currie is the editor of The Free Lance-Star's Healthy Life section and Healthy Life Virginia newsletter.

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Is skin problem all in kids’ guts?

If you have a child with eczema, you know all about the itchy, scaly rashes that seem — at least in our house — to be especially bothersome in winter when indoor air is so dry. But here’s something you may not know: Researchers think children’s eczema may be linked to a particular kind of bacteria they have in their guts.

In a recent study, scientists in Finland found that kids with eczema had more gut bacteria known as Clostridium clusters IV and XIVa than kids without eczema. Those  Clostridium clusters are more commonly found in the guts of adults, says the report, published in BioMed Central’s open access journal BMC Microbiology. You can read more about it here.

Interestingly, another recent study showed that kids are more likely to develop eczema if they eat fast food three or more times a week. Those kids also are more likely to suffer from hay fever and asthma. You can read more about that study here.

Scientists aren’t certain what causes eczema but think genetics and environmental factors probably play a role. “In some people, having allergies may trigger eczema,” says a University of Maryland Medical Center web page that Dr. Roxanne Allegretti, a Fredericksburg pediatrician, referred me to for information.

Allegretti, of Preferred Pediatrics, said she’s read that “about half of infantile eczema is food-allergy related.” So if parents have trouble controlling their baby’s eczema, seeing an allergist can help.

Eczema tends to come and go, and some things are known to flare it up. These include dry air, dry skin, excessive heat, sweating, pollen, mold and stress.

If you or your children have eczema, you probably already know how to ease the discomfort. Here are things that can help:

  • Steroid creams. These are helpful during a flare-up, “but try everything else” before using them and then use them for only about a week, Allegretti said.
  • Antihistamines. These reduce the urge to itch. “Scratching always makes it worse, so you want to minimize that,” Allegretti said.
  • Colloidal oatmeal baths. “Oatmeal is a natural anti-inflammatory,” Allegretti said.
  • Lotion. Allegretti said good skin care is crucial, and she recommends patients use “fragrance-free, dye-free, heavy moisturizers. I like Eucerin cream, Aquaphor and Aveeno Baby eczema cream, but there are lots of good ones out there. If those are too pricey, Crisco works too.”

If you’re curious about other studies involving eczema and possible links to what’s in our guts, check out this link to a story Allegretti sent me about how mothers’ probiotic use can reduce a baby’s risk of developing eczema.

For more information, check out this article on eczema from, or visit the University of Maryland Medical Center’s eczema web page here.