October is Eczema Awareness Month. Here at Ready. Set. Food!, we're dedicating the month to answering common questions about eczema and sharing eczema care tips.
Today, we share our top 14 tips for caring for your child's eczema --- and taking care of yourself during the process.
When your child has eczema (also called dermatitis), their skin becomes dry, itchy and inflamed with a rash when it's exposed to certain irritants.
Their skin barrier is also compromised, so it's easier for these irritants to pass through and cause the itch.
Caring for your child's eczema can be overwhelming and frustrating at times, especially if your child is prone to flare-ups (times where their itchy rash gets worse). It can take a lot of time to moisturize and soothe your child's skin.
But we've got your back with these 14 survival tips to help you care for your child's eczema --- and take care of yourself.
1. Identify and remove eczema "triggers"
Every child with eczema has different "triggers." An eczema "trigger" will make your child's eczema worse when their skin is exposed to it.
Common "triggers" include dry skin, a dry environment, heat, fragrances, dyes, chemicals, metals, rougher fabrics, and allergens.
Pay attention to when your child's eczema flares up. Was it hot outside? Are they sneezing from the pollen in the air? Did you use a scented product on their skin or clothing?
When you've identified a possible "trigger" of your child's eczema, keep your child away from it so it doesn't come in contact with their skin and cause flares.
Learn more from the American Academy of Dermatology for more tips on caring for your child's eczema:
2. Bathe your child daily
Daily bathing is essential to managing your child's eczema. But you'll need to do it right so you don't make their skin flare up more.
- Bathe them in warm (not hot) water for 10-15 minutes.
- Use unscented, mild liquid cleanser.
- Stay away from soaps. Soaps will mess with skin PH and will dry out your child's skin.
- Don't scrub too hard. Instead, gently wash your child's eczema areas.
- After the bath, pat them dry so some of the moisture stays on the skin.
- Then, apply moisturizer within 3 minutes after the bath, to seal the moisture from the bath into your child's skin.
For more tips on bathing your child with eczema, don't miss our in-depth guide to bathing eczema babies.
3. Moisturize your child's skin often
In addition to moisturizing your child's skin after their daily bath, intentionally moisturizing their skin several times a day will help cut down on flare-ups.
Moisturize their skin whenever it looks itchy or seems dry.
Spritz your child's skin with water, then immediately apply moisturizer. This will lock in moisture and keep irritants from entering your child's skin.
Moisturize them all over, especially where their eczema is worst. And remember --- there's no such thing as too much moisturizer!
4. Choose the right moisturizer
Moisturizers with ceramides are a good choice for eczema treatment. They supplement the ceramides --- the fats or lipids --- that are already part of the skin's natural barrier.
Coconut oil is another effective moisturizer. Besides holding in moisture, it can also help ease swelling and redness, and even stop the growth of certain harmful bacteria. For the best results, pick virgin (cold-processed) coconut oil. It's packed with more bacteria-fighting properties.
Don't choose a cream with alcohol, as alcohol can sting and burn your child's skin.
Ointments are a better choice, because ointments are usually alcohol-free.
And be sure any moisturizer you choose is fragrance-free.
For more on picking the right eczema moisturizer, don't miss our detailed guide.
5. Stop the scratch
As tempting as it can be for your child, scratching eczema areas can make their eczema worse.
Keeping their fingernails clipped, and having them wear "no-scratch" mittens or eczema sleeves to bed, can help stop the scratching.
Don't tell them "don't scratch," though. This doesn't usually work. It can also be stressful for both of you, and stress can sometimes make your child's flares worse.
Instead, distract them from the itch by massaging them gently, or by offering a favorite toy (such as a fidget!) to keep their hands occupied.
6. Consider special types of baths
7. Avoid fragrances and dyes
Fragrances and dyes are common eczema irritants. So, be sure to use dye-free and perfume-free laundry detergents, and avoid fabric softeners completely.
You'll also need to make sure anything applied to your child's skin doesn't contain a dye, fragrance, scent, or perfume. This means picking fragrance-free and dye-free shampoo, body wash, and moisturizer.
8. Wash new clothing and bedding right away
The harsh chemicals used to treat new clothing and bedding are known to dry out and irritate the skin. So, be sure to wash new clothing and bedding before it comes in contact with your child's skin.
9. Dress your child in cotton clothing
Loose-fitting, natural cotton clothing is most comfortable for kids with eczema. Avoid tight clothing, and avoid rough or itchy fabrics like polyester, nylon, and wool, as these will irritate the skin.
10. Keep your child cool
Heat and dryness can make your child's rash worse.
- Keep your child's room cool, especially during summer.
- Set up a humidifier at least 1-2 nights per week, to run in their room while they sleep.
- And if their eczema flares up, consider applying cold packs to their flare areas for soothing relief.
11. Try wet wrap therapy
Wet wrap therapy involves dressing your child in damp, cotton pajamas (or a wet dressing) after their bath and moisturizer, and then putting dry pajamas over the "wet wrap." It can help soothe eczema overnight.
Read our previous guide for all the steps to wet wrap therapy.
12. Be prepared for bedtime interruptions
Especially if your child is very young, they may be restless if their eczema bothers them at night. This may lead both of you to lose valuable sleep.
If their significant itching keeps them up, sometimes it's best to "start bedtime over" so both of you can get a few more hours of sleep in. Spritz your child's skin, moisturize them, and have them change into new clothes before tucking them in again.
You might also find it beneficial to schedule your child's bath and moisturizer time (possibly followed by wet wrap therapy) right before bed. This may reduce the chances of interrupted sleep.
13. Prioritize quality of life over quality of skin
Spending quality time with your child is much more important than always having their eczema under control.
This shows your child that who they are as a person holds far greater value than how their skin behaves.
Like you would with any child, focus on building memories with your little one. Even on big eczema flare-up days, give them quality time with you that they enjoy, such as storytime or an outing.
14. Don't be afraid to ask for help!
Eczema management can be challenging and stressful, especially on top of other household responsibilities. But here's the good news: you don't have to go at it alone.
Split the household responsibilities with your partner, so both of you have less on your plate. And if you need to, ask other family members or friends for help. For instance, you might ask if they would be willing to cook meals, or watch your other children while you spend time caring for your child with eczema.
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