Eczema And Kids: 13 Tips To Help Stop the Itch

October is Eczema Awareness Month, and Ready, Set Food! is here to help with tips for your child’s eczema care. When your child’s eczema suddenly flares up and gets itchier, it can be very uncomfortable. How to stop the itch and help give your child the needed relief? Read on for our tips and strategies.

Eczema (atopic dermatitis) is a skin condition that causes the skin to become dry, rough, inflamed, and itchy. Atopic dermatitis affects between 10% and 20% of children, according to a 2014 study, and is most common in babies and children under five years of age. So, if your child has eczema, you’re certainly not alone. But like many parents, you're probably wondering how to help your child through the challenges.

When your child’s eczema suddenly flares up and gets itchier, it can be very uncomfortable for them. And often, it starts the dreaded “itch-scratch cycle,” where your child starts scratching to try to get some relief, only to make their eczema – and their itch – worse.

How to stop the itch and help give your child the needed relief? Read on for our 13 tips and strategies to help stop the eczema itch.

1. Moisturize regularly.

Moisturizing your child’s skin within 3 minutes of their daily bath is vital. But you should also moisturize at other times throughout the day – whenever your child feels itchy.

First, use a spritz bottle to moisten your child's skin. Then, apply moisturizer liberally, all over your child's body, within 3 minutes after the spritz. Focus on the areas where your child itches the most.

There's no such thing as too much moisturizer! This process helps seal moisture into the skin, combating dryness and itch.

2. Pick the right moisturizer.

Not all moisturizers are created equal when it comes to stopping the eczema itch.

One of the best choices to moisturize your child's skin is virgin cold-pressed coconut oil. Its anti-inflammatory properties help cut down on the swelling and itchiness. Plus, it's antimicrobial – thanks to lauric acid, it helps keep certain bacteria from growing on your child's skin.

Moisturizer with ceramides is also a good choice, as the ceramides mimic the skin's natural barrier and help keep itch-causing irritants out.

Although more research is needed, ingredients like shea butter, oats, aloe vera, cold-pressed sunflower seed oil, and honey might also help relieve itch.

Never choose a moisturizer with alcohol, as this can sting and burn your child's skin.

Read our baby eczema moisturizer guide for more on the best moisturizer ingredients – and which ingredients you should skip.

3. Identify and remove the itch triggers.

Pay attention to your child's surroundings when their eczema flares up. It's vital to figure out what might have caused the flare, so you can keep the possible irritant away from your child's skin and cut down on future itching.

Common flare "triggers" include dyes, fragrances, rough fabrics, chemicals, dry air, heat, metals, and allergens.

As a rule, you should never use products with fragrances or dyes on your child's skin. That means choosing fragrance-free and dye-free cleanser, body wash, moisturizer, shampoo, and laundry detergent.

4. Cool things down.

Many parents of kids with eczema recommend applying an ice pack to an itchy area, for soothing relief from the itch. You can also soak a washcloth in cool water, then wring it out, and apply the damp washcloth to your child's skin as another type of cool compress

Another trick is to place store-bought moisturizer in the fridge for a few hours, then apply it to itchy and flaring areas to give your child cool comfort.

Only refrigerate store-bought moisturizers. Don't refrigerate prescription eczema treatments, unless your doctor says it's OK to do so.

5. Stop the scratch.

Scratching can be very tempting when your child has an itch, even though it only makes the eczema worse.

Keeping your child's fingernails short will help minimize the scratching. So will giving your child eczema mittens, gloves, or anti-scratch eczema sleeves, to wear at bedtime.

During the day, offer distractions from the itch that keep your child's hands occupied. Fidget toys are great for this, but any favorite toy that occupies both hands will do. Stick these "distraction" toys in a container so they're easy to access.

6. Stick with loose cotton.

Loose cotton fabric is the most eczema-friendly, and won't lead to itching. So, purchase loose cotton clothing and bedding for your child. When the weather allows, long sleeves are a good bet, as covering the skin can help cut down on the temptation to scratch.

Avoid purchasing wool, nylon, or polyester clothing or bedding for your child. These irritating fabrics can start an itch-scratch cycle and make eczema worse.

7. Never say "don't scratch."

Telling your child not to scratch will only make things worse. It doesn't usually work, because it only reminds your child of the itch.

This can also stress out you and your child. And stress can make your child's flares worse.

What to say instead? Offer a distraction. You might offer to read a story, sing a hand motion song, or play a game with your younger child. For older children, suggest that your child do a craft project, grab a fidget, build with a building toy, play their instrument, or play a video game.

You can also help your child take control, as the National Eczema Association suggests. Instead of saying "don't scratch," say, "your eczema is bothering you, what can we do?" For younger children, you might have to help answer the question with a distraction or treatment. But an older child can offer a suggestion on their own.

8. Use calming techniques.

Since stress can cause flares and itching, it's important for your child to learn ways to calm their body (and their eczema) down. They might try deep breathing techniques, listening to soothing music, balling up and then relaxing their hands, or squeezing a stress ball.

9. Try an oatmeal bath.

A special bath called a colloidal oatmeal bath can help if your child's skin flares up regularly. Oatmeal has special properties that relieve the itch and moisturize the skin. Plus, the antioxidants in oatmeal can help cut down on inflammation.

An oatmeal bath involves buying or making finely ground oatmeal, mixing it with a bath of warm water, and having your child soak in the bath for 10-15 minutes.

Only give an oatmeal bath if your dermatologist recommends it.

Read the linked article for a step-by-step guide to giving your child an oatmeal bath.

10. Set up a comfortable sleep space.

Your child's room should stay cool, especially during the summer. And you should only place the amount of bedding they need (all made of cotton) on their bed. This will keep them from getting too hot – as heat can cause flares.

The ideal bedroom temperature for your child is between 61 and 66 degrees Fahrenheit at night.

You should also run a humidifier 1-2 nights a week, or however many nights your dermatologist recommends, while your child sleeps. This will keep the moisture levels up in your child's room.

11. Be strategic at bedtime.

It might be best to schedule your child's daily bath (and post-bath moisturizer) for right before bed. You might also do wet wrap therapy immediately afterwards. This may reduce the chances of their sleep getting interrupted by itching.

If your child wakes up in the middle of the night with a troublesome itch, you might decide to "start bedtime over" so you can both sleep better. Spritz your child's skin, moisturize, then give them a new pair of cotton pajamas to change into.

12. Consider wet wrap therapy.

You might also ask your dermatologist about wet wrap therapy if your child's itching and flares get intense.

To do wet wrap therapy, you'll dress your child in damp, cotton pajamas (or a wet dressing) after their bath and moisturizer, and then put dry pajamas on over this "wet wrap." Then, you'll leave the wrap on overnight. You can also do wet wrap therapy during the day if needed, as long as you leave the wet wrap on for at least 2 hours. This will help rehydrate your child's skin and soothe itchy flares.

For a step-by-step guide to wet wrap therapy, please read our previous article.

13. Never skip the daily bath!

No matter how busy (or how itchy) things get, and no matter how other parts of your routine change, it's essential to stick to the basics. Make sure your child has a warm bath every day!

Your child should bathe in warm water, use fragrance-free and dye-free cleansers, and soak for 10-15 minutes (or however long your dermatologist recommends). After the bath, pat their skin dry and apply moisturizer within 3 minutes to seal in the moisture. The bath-moisturizer routine is one of the best ways to stop the itch – and stay ahead of it.

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All health-related content on this website is for informational purposes only and does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the advice of your own pediatrician in connection with any questions regarding your baby’s health.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.  If your infant has severe eczema, check with your infant’s healthcare provider before feeding foods containing ground peanuts.