I get asked this question ALOT on whether to see an allergist or dermatologist for Eczema sufferers so I thought I would drop a quick post on this. When you first think of eczema as a skin disease, it seems natural to immediately gravitate towards fixing an appointment with a dermatologist. But for some eczema babies, further analysis is necessary.
So the answer rests in answering 3 simple questions below and your gut feel as a parent. I’ll explain how to decipher your gut feel at the bottom. First, heres a quick summary of the two.
A dermatologist specialises in dealing with skin, hair and nails and their related diseases.
No prizes for guessing that by definition, an allergist specialises in treating diseases caused by allergic reactions. An allergist treats diseases covering what is commonly known as the triad of allergy: asthma, eczema and rhinitis. Typically an allergist specialises in immunology, because allergic reactions are usually the result of a defective immunity system.
So which should your child see?
It Depends. Answer lies in the following 3 questions.
1. Severity of Eczema
If your child’s eczema is not serious and is able to stay under control under the care of a general doctor then chances are you may not need to see either. Usually baby’s with moderate to chronic eczema may indicate more detailed investigations are needed.
If your baby’s eczema is chronic then you need to think through more of the following 2 questions:
2. What is triggering your child’s eczema flares?
A dermatologist may suffice to sort out your eczema woes, if your babies’ eczema is triggered solely by a defective skin barrier. This usually means very mild eczema that is kept under control with moisturisers and light medication if any medication at all.
If your child’s eczema is chronic and you are not able to identify specific triggers then its time to consider an allergist. While a dermatologist might be able to do the same to some extent, their specialisation is not in allergy or immunology. Chronic eczema is usually the result of some misfiring of the baby’s immune system.
3. Is your current treatment effective in keeping the eczema flares away?
If your baby’s eczema is persistent. Maybe it goes away with current treatment but recurs again often enough to keep you up at night thinking about it. It might also mean your current treatment of the eczema is not sufficient in keeping down the flares. In this case, a visit to an allergist might be helpful in further investigation.
Using your gut feel as a parent
In the beginning, it seemed natural to consult a dermatologist first when our doctor diagnosed Corey with eczema. But when his symptoms did not improve, it was clear we were not getting the correct answers. With an allergist, we were able to get more answers that helped with isolating his triggers and thus eczema.
In Corey’s case, my gut told us that we had to keep looking for answers when his condition deteriorated. In consulting with his allergist, we learnt that his allergic reactions could be air borne (to eggs, milk and peanut) because he was continuously reacting even though he had not had any physical contact with these allergens.
As a parent, you know your baby best so take the time to observe and use the above simple 3 questionsto draw conclusions about which type of doctor to see.