Severe eczema in infants and children can be quite distressing for parents.

One mum brought her toddler with severe cradle cap and red, itchy, flaky skin on the face to see me.

Initially, this needed treatment with mild steroid cream for a few days, which one is always reluctant to use on children, particularly on the face.

Sometimes, it is essential to use mild steroids and an antibiotic judiciously to control severe flare up of eczema and protect the skin but prolonged use is not advisable.

Plenty of emollients and moisturisers are essential to prevent drying and fissuring of skin. Itching can be controlled with antihistamines.

I have recently treated a few children and adults suffering from eczema, psoriasis or dry skin with an ayurvedic herbal oil made from neem (azadirachta indica) in sesame and coconut oil in a specific formulation.

Applied daily on the scalp and face of the baby with severe cradle cap and facial eczema, the oil gave remarkable results.

It relieved the flakiness, redness and soreness, allowing the baby to sleep peacefully.

This has been followed by daily application of my natural eczema formula made from natural oils, aloe vera, glycerine and Ayurvedic herbs with essential oils of frankincense and turmeric.

Neem is a natural anti-fungal and skin healant, turmeric is a natural antiseptic and anti-oxidant and frankincense is a natural anti-inflammatory.

Sesame seed oil is rich in vitamin E and proteins and essential fatty acids which help maintain moisture and elasticity of the skin and prevent thickening and rough skin formation.

Coconut oil contains prostaglandin-like substances which help heal skin. A number patients of eczema have used this combination with good results.

I give panchnimba churna (five bitters), pure curcumin extract, neem leaf and bark extract, manjishtadi qwath and Kishore guggul to teenagers and adult patients as well-proven treatments for eczema, psoriasis and acne without side effects.

Maintaining good digestion and bowel action helps prevent toxins from accumulating in the body. Trifala herb is a good gentle laxative and also has specific healing and detoxifying action on skin, liver and blood.

Eczema sufferers should also reduce salt intake, avoid sour, fried foods and take plenty of organic vegetables, fruits and pure water. Emotional and mental stress or a viral infection can also cause a flare up of eczema.

About three to five per cent of children are affected by atopic eczema, often associated with a personal or family history of eczema, asthma and allergic rhinitis or hay-fever.

Twenty-five per cent of the population are atopic and have high immunoglobulin E in their blood so they react to various ingested and inhaled allergens, which can be identified by pin-prick allergy testing.

I advise my patients to avoid exposure to pollutants and ask them to use plenty of emollients and moisturisers, applied liberally throughout the day.