Question: Are topical steroids safe to use on my child's skin?
Answer: In general, topical steroids can be very safe when used appropriately. It's important to remember that they have been the main treatment for atopic dermatitis now for about 50 years.
However, we know that many of them have not been studied and approved for use in children. A few of them are approved in children as young as three months of age, although it's also important to remember that those studies have only been done for use up to, let's say, about 28 days at a time.
Topical steroids are available in a number of strengths or potencies, ranging from class I, which are the very strong potent steroids, down to class VII, which are the low potency, over-the-counter ones.
It's important, also, to remember that the number that appears after the name of a steroid doesn't necessarily tell you how strong it is. So, for example, a medication such as betamethasone diproprionate 0.05 percent is much stronger, in fact, than hydrocortisone 2.5 percent.
Areas of the body such as the face, underarms and groin are particularly sensitive to thinning if topical steroids in stronger potencies are used for extended periods of time.
So it's important when treating atopic dermatitis that the patient or parent know exactly which medication is being used to which area of eczema and review this with your treating clinician and follow up visits.
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