One of the most important steps in treating secondary infections in children with atopic dermatitis (AD) is bringing the eczema under control, according to Lawrence Eichenfield, MD, chief of pediatric and adolescent dermatology at the University of California, San Diego.

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It’s the breach in skin integrity that gives skin flora – most commonly Staphylococcus or Streptococcus – an opening for infection.

Dr. Eichenfield shared his treatment approach in a pearl-filled interview at the Hawaii Dermatology Seminar, provided by Global Academy for Medical Education/Skin Disease Education Foundation.

“Many times, anti-inflammatories are going to be the effective therapy,” whether topical steroids or systemic therapies. But with a secondary infection, systemic antibiotics are in order, too, but topical ones aren’t much use, he said.

Dr. Eichenfield gets a lot of questions about steroid-sparing options for very young children, since topical calcineurin inhibitors and the like aren’t approved in children under 2 years old, and insurance coverage can be a problem. He noted, however, that various guidelines support their use even in the very young, “so I tell my physicians to fight for them ... If you need a steroid-sparing agent, push for it, because it may be the right thing for your patient,” he said.

He’s finding in his area that infected eczema often is resistant to clindamycin, which has been used heavily because of concerns about methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). But it often will “respond to what we considered to be wimpier antibiotics in the past, such as cephalosporin ... So I’ll use cephalosporin or an extended-spectrum penicillin as my first-line agent, and then I’ll culture, depending on history, to see if I have to be concerned about methicillin resistance,” he said.

Be on the lookout for cutaneous herpes and show parents pictures of what it looks like so they recognize it and know to come in right away. It is a dangerous infection, but can be shut down quickly with oral acyclovir and similar agents, Dr. Eichenfield added.

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