Eczema is tough on kids. They itch, and itch, and then itch some more. It can keep them up at night and interfere with their quality of life if not controlled properly. Parents often reach a point where they just don't feel like they've got a handle on it and sometimes feel helpless.
When that happens, I remind them that though eczema may be a condition their child will have to live with (until they, hopefully, outgrow it), they don't have to suffer. There is plenty parents and kids can do to take control and reign in the itchy rash that is eczema.
Start with the basics: Skin care
- Children with eczema need an emphasis on skin hygiene. Bathe 2-3 times per week in warm or tepid (not overly hot) water. Keep baths brief and pat dry afterwards.
- Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. Did I say moisturize? Applying a thick emollient several times a day will help restore skin's natural barrier and protect it from the elements.
- Apply moisturizer immediately after bath time to lock in moisture. Use a cream that is dye-free, scent-free, and alcohol-free. Good ones to try? Eucerin, Aquaphor, Cetaphil, Aveeno for eczema, Vaseline.
- If your child is prescribed a topical corticosteroid to calm down inflamed eczematous skin, use only as directed and for shortest time needed. Typically these are used twice daily for 7-14 days during an eczema flare.
- During flare-ups, be sure to continue the moisturizing regimen. Your child's skin will need both the topical steroid, with the several times daily moisturizer.
- Use only dye and fragrance-free body cleansers and laundry detergents to avoid sending your child's skin into eczema overdrive.
Calming the itch
- Use cool compresses to ease the itch associated with eczema.
- Keep your child's skin well lubricated as discussed above. Applying moisturizer before bedtime is a must.
- Keep your child's fingernails short and use a daily antihistamine to relieve excessive itching.
- Getting a handle on the itch is an extremely important aspect of eczema control. The more your child itches, the worse the eczema gets and leaves her prone to secondary infections.
Eczema is often associated with asthma, seasonal allergies, and food allergies in children. It's important to know what (if any) foods your child may be allergic or sensitive to in order to minimize eczema flare-ups as well.
Tips for avoiding eczema triggers
- Pollen, dust, and animal dander can all worsen a child's eczema.
- Add moisture back to dry winter air by using a cool mist humidifier in your home.
- Watch your child for reactions to certain foods. Namely: dairy, wheat, eggs, soy and/or nuts. If you suspect a true food allergy, discuss this with your child's pediatrician.
- Avoid exposing your child to second hand smoke, strong perfumes or colognes.
- Over-heating, excessive sweating and stress can also trigger a flare-up.
Dr. Mom's BOttom Line^ Eczema can be a tough skin condition to treat sometimes. However, sticking to a good skin care routine, avoiding possible triggers, and working with your child's doctor will ensure that flare-ups are kept to a minimum. The light at the end of the tunnel is that more than half of the children who have eczema will have outgrown it by their teen years.