Eczema is one of the most common skin conditions kids can get, affecting more than 9 million in the United States alone. The incessant dry, red, itchy skin shows up on various body parts from the scalp to the feet. It’s not contagious, but it’s not curable either. It is, however, treatable.
Margaret Lubega, MD, at First Pediatric Care Center specializes in caring for the unique conditions that affect infants, toddlers, small children, and young adults — including eczema. When you’re at your wit’s end trying to find a way to comfort your child and help them cope with the constant presence of itchy eczema, Dr. Lubega can help.
In addition to medical treatment options, she offers these tips for how you can help your child live with eczema and prevent flare-ups whenever possible.
Know your child’s eczema triggers
Regardless of the type of eczema your child has, there are certain things and environmental conditions that make it suddenly appear where it wasn’t before or make a relatively calm patch suddenly worse. These are called flare-ups.
Things that trigger eczema flare-ups are not the same for everyone, but the most common are stressful situations, dry air, and sweat. Keep in mind that your child’s triggers may change over the years, so be on the lookout for new challenges as they grow. Here are some triggers to watch for:
Certain foods your child eats may not only cause a reaction when ingested, but also when it touches the skin.
This is the No. 1 enemy of eczema. Moisturize your child’s skin several times a day with a product made for sensitive skin.
New clothing contains dyes and chemicals; wash it before the first use. Also, buy tagless clothes or cut them out to avoid irritation.
Don’t overdress your child. Overheating and sweat can trigger eczema.
Avoid all cleaning, laundry, sunscreen, soap, and moisturizing products that have added fragrance and coloring, including bubble baths.
Teddy bears are the quintessential childhood comfort — unless you have eczema. Soft toys like stuffed animals can irritate the skin. Even if they’re incredibly soft, they attract dust, which triggers eczema.
Baby wipes can be a trigger for eczema as well. They usually contain chemicals like fragrance that can cause flare-ups. In addition, the wiping motion is harsh on sensitive skin. Ditch the wipes and opt for soft cotton clothes, and dab instead of wipe.
Controlling eczema when your child is away from you
You can’t be with your child all day long. Here are some precautions to take when your child is away from you.
Talk to your child’s teacher
Extreme eczema can cause sleepless nights. If your child is having trouble getting enough sleep, let their teacher know so concessions can be made.
If your child needs to apply moisturizer throughout the day, you may need written permission, or you may need to make arrangements with the school nurse.
Ask that your child be seated away from heaters or heating vents.
Talk to your child’s gym teacher or coach
Because overheating and sweat are two of the most common eczema triggers, participating in sports or physical activity can be challenging. The more information you give to the supervising adult, the better. Here are a few tips that may help your child:
- Drink plenty of cool water
- Wear a loose-fitting uniform made of natural fibers
- Get rid of tags
- Cover itchy seams
- Shower or rinse off sweat
If swimming is the activity, moisturize your child’s skin liberally before they enter the water. Petroleum jelly is also a good barrier that protects the skin from pool chemicals. Rinse immediately and thoroughly as soon as you get out of the pool. Pat the skin dry; never rub.
Talk to your child about stress
It’s not easy being a kid these days. Between school work, peer pressure, and social media demands, kids face a lot of challenges. Add eczema to the equation and it’s even tougher. What’s worse: Stress aggravates eczema. They won’t be able to eliminate stress altogether, but they can learn to avoid it when possible.
It’s good to let your child’s teachers know about the problem as well. They can help guide situations that are prone to stress and recognize the signs when your child might need help.
In general, the rule of thumb for kids with eczema is: Moisturize often and reduce triggers. When those efforts alone are not enough to control your child’s flare-ups, call us to schedule an appointment with Dr. Lubega or book one online. We can help you calm the worst of it and learn to manage your child’s eczema so they live more comfortably.