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Childhood skin problems and Ayurvedic treatment options

Many of the skin problems seen in toddlers are also seen throughout childhood.

Chicken Pox

Caused by infection of the highly contagious varicella zoster virus. The virus spreads through the air or via physical contact and the incubation period is between 10 and 21 days.

The physical symptoms begin with itchy spots, usually on the chest and back; the rash then spreads all over the body in the following three to four days. The spots develop into blisters which can break easily and form scabs. Other symptoms of chicken pox can include; fever, lethargy, headache, cough andrhinorrhea (runny nose).

Most often, children recover completely without treatment.

Decoctions such as madhuka pushpadi and kashikimadhukadi are very much effective in reducing the fever, different aches and severity of skin eruptions.

Topical creams, such as manjishtadi lepa with nalpamaradi or nimbi kashaya are useful to ruduce the pain itching and bunrning sensation. Lukewarm baths, lightweight clothing, closely cropped nails and mittens may all prevent scratching which can lead to scarring.

Eczema (Visarpa)

Refers to a range of conditions which involve skin inflammation, the most common of these being atopic dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis is characterized by an itchy, red rash which most commonly appears on the face and scalp. The condition usually appears in a child's first year of life and may be dry, scaly, blistered, weeping, bleeding or warm to the touch.

Atopic dermatitis(Kuladha Visarpa)

Atopic dermatitis(Kuladha Visarpa) is a complex disease and, although its precise cause is unknown, various genetic and environmental factors are believed to be involved. As a result, children who have a family history of allergy or dermatitis are more prone to developing this type of dermatosis.

The itchiness of atopic dermatitis can be extremely aggravating, to the extent that it may interfere with a child's sleep or other daily activities. Babies or children will often try to scratch or rub their affected skin against clothing and objects to alleviate this irritation. It is important to discourage children from scratching their skin as this may cause it to become infected. Some parents find that closely cropping fingernails helps to minimise the damage caused by scratching in younger children; babies may also benefit from wearing 'scratch mitts' or being tightly swaddled during their sleep.

Most cases of childhood atopic dermatitis are mild and the vast majority of these outgrow the condition. Unfortunately, a small proportion of people have a moderate to severe condition which persists into adulthood.

Atopic dermatitis is a chronic condition which needs to be continually managed and monitored. It is typical for atopic dermatitis to improve or flare up intermittently, sometimes in response to allergens or other environmental triggers.

There are, however, some simple measures you can take to relieve some of your child's discomfort: regularly (twice daily) apply Manjishtadi choornam with coconut milk or curd, these smooth the skin and may help to ease the itchiness. Topical application of Balathraydi keram is usefull in reducing dryness and fissuring of skin. Dress them in soft clothing; keep them cool where possible; avoid exposure to known allergens or triggers. Wash their clothes in hot water and bathe them with natural Bengal gram powder cleansers. If the baby is a breast fed one the mother should also take some medication. The life style of the mother and child should be modified according to the physician's advice.

Hives (papular urticaria or welts)(Seetapitta)

Itchy, red, raised areas of skin caused by histamines, chemicals produced by the body in immune response to a variety substances. They are commonly caused by pollen, pet allergens, certain foods, insect bites, medications or infections.

Hives usually last for a few hours or days, then disappear on their own. In the meantime. Applying Sariba, Kushta and Chandana with cow's milk topically will relieve the allergic rashes immediately. Rajanyadi kashayam, and Avipathi choornam with honey should be taken internally. Abheeru doorvadi keram can be used as prebath oil massage.

NB : If a child with hives has difficulty breathing call an ambulance immediately as they may be suffering from anaphylactic shock.

Impetigo (school sores) (Pitta and Kapha pitta Visarpa)

A contagious skin infection caused by bacteria (either staphylococcus or streptococcus). It appears as patches of tiny, red, itchy blisters, often around the mouth and nose; though it can also occur elsewhere.

These blisters break open, oozing a yellow liquid and then form yellowy-brown scabs. New blisters can form by touching existing sores then transferring the bacteria to other parts of the body. The blisters usually appear one to ten days after infection, depending on the type of bacteria present. Impetigo is highly contagious, being spread through touching someone with infected skin or sharing their personal items (i.e. bedsheets or clothing). It is more likely to develop on skin that has already been broken, through a cut or bite, for example.

Impetigo can be treated with internal medicines such as Kaishikimadhukadi kashyam, Madhuka pushpadi kashayam, Gopi chandanadi vatika etc and external application such as Amrutadi lepam and Bala thrayadi keram. Wash the affected areas with water boiled with Nalpamaradi drugs. The infection can take a week to ten days to cease, in which time the sores should be dressed to prevent its spread. Furthermore, the child's clothing and linen needs to be washed each day in this period boiled water. Encourage the child not to scratch, and wear gloves or regularly wash your hands when treating impetigo.

Molluscum contagiosum (Ajagallika)

A viral infection of the skin caused by a poxvirus. It is a contagious disease particularly common in young children. After approximately two to three months of the virus incubating, small, round growths begin to emerge. These are light pink or tan colour and can look similar to warts. They can sometimes become red and irritated or have a tiny white spot in the centre.

Though they can develop anywhere, mollusca in children commonly appear on the face, arms, legs or torso. They often arise in clusters in skin folds such as the armpits, behind knees or in the groin. Molluscum contagiosum is spread through touching infected skin or objects and a child can extend them across their own body by touching or scratching the growths.

While molluscum contagiosum usually resolves on its own over many months, treatment is recommended to stop its spread. Treatments include: applying topical medications such as Paranthi valkadi lepam and internal medication such as Pathya badaradi kashayam.

Psoriasis (Kidipha kushtam/kuladha visarpam)

Chronic skin condition in which patches of skin becomes red, inflamed and covered by white, flaky skin. These outbreaks occur because skin cells are produced more quickly than normal, causing a build-up which creates the plaques; this is thought to be caused by faulty signals from the immune system.

There are five types of psoriasis, with plaque psoriasis and guttate psoriasis being those which occur most in children. One in ten people with psoriasis develop the condition as a child and early onset is linked with more severe forms.

Depending on the type and severity of the psoriasis, treatment might involve: medicated creams such as manjishtadi and oils or moisturizers such as thillwaka navaneetam and oral medication such as Musthadi kashayam and Avipathi choornam.

Ringworm (mandala kushtam)

Ringworm (mandala kushtam) is an itchy fungal infection of the skin which presents as scaly rings a couple of centimeters wide. Ringworm is contagious and is passed between contact with infected people, pets and personal items (i.e. towels, hairbrushes and clothing).

A topical antifungal such as Chiratta tailam, Tunga drumadi lepam etc usually needs to be applied to the affected areas for three or four weeks, continuing after the rash has disappeared. Occasionally ringworm does not respond and a stronger, prescription, topical or oral medication will be required from your doctor.

The following steps can be taken to prevent reinfection: dry your child thoroughly and keep them cool; don't let your child share personal items; wash the child's linen and clothing; have pets with ringworm treated and have children wear thongs in communal swimming or bathing areas.

Warts

Warts are benign growths or tumours, usually on the feet (plantar warts) or hands, caused by infection of the human papilloma virus. Warts will occasionally resolve without treatment, however, this can take months and in the interim the virus within existing warts can proliferate and generate fresh ones. Thus, prompt professional treatment with kasamarda snuhi lepam or Chithrakadi lepam is recommended.