Q: My child was put on Protopic for eczema. Are there any risks I should know about?

A: Protopic is a topical medication used to treat more severe cases of eczema (super-sensitive skin that flares into a rough or scaly rash in response to certain triggers). It's usually prescribed if topical steroid creams have failed to do the trick, or for extra-sensitive areas where topical steroids aren't routinely recommended, like the face or groin. Protopic, and another similar drug called Elidel, work by slowing the immune system's response to triggers that otherwise cause eczema to flare up.

Protopic is recommended for children over 2 for short periods of time, although it has become somewhat controversial. Many dermatologists like the drug as a good alternative to heavier doses of topical steroids or even oral steroids, which can have side effects if used for too long, including nausea, vomiting and, in rare instances, even slowed growth and high blood pressure. But many pediatricians tend to prescribe Protopic only if they feel it's absolutely necessary. Although there have been no concerns about its short-term use, there have been reports of an increased risk of certain cancers when tested in animals (though never reported in humans) when used long-term.

If you're concerned, you should discuss these issues with your child's doctor. In serious cases of eczema, the benefits for your child may outweigh any potential or rare risks. Leaving bad eczema untreated can make your child vulnerable to bacterial infections, including MRSA (a drug-resistant type of staph infection).

Copyright 2009 Meredith Corporation.

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