Just Don’t Scratch

It sounds so simple, but when you’re dealing with the relentless itch of an eczema flare-up, it’s hard enough for adults to control the urge. It’s even more difficult for children, especially when they’re too young to even understand what’s happening. The good news is that many children’s symptoms improve significantly with time and around two thirds “grow out of” eczema by their teens, though they may remain prone to dry skin in adulthood. But that’s no consolation when your child’s itching is keeping them – and you – awake. Everyone experiences eczema differently, so you may need to explore different techniques before finding a routine that works. But there are things you can do to soothe your child’s itching and keep future attacks to a minimum, and with the right practical and emotional support, your child’s eczema needn’t hold them back.

Tips For Parents of Children with Eczema

Create an Eczema-Friendly Bathing Routine

Bath time is a crucial part of keeping eczema-prone skin from drying out. Use a mild, fragrance free cleanser – no soaps or bubble baths — and keep the water luke-warm rather than hot. Pat rather than rub with a towel, and moisturize immediately while the skin is still slightly damp. Wait for a few minutes before dressing your child to allow the moisturizer to absorb.

Moisturize regularly

Moisturize Regularly

Don’t just moisturize after bathing. Apply a good moisturizing cream at least twice a day and as necessary whenever skin starts to dry out or itch. Avoid water-based lotions as they can be ineffective for eczema or even make symptoms worse. Sarna® Sensitive is designed with sensitive, eczema-prone skin in mind and treats the itch while moisturizing the skin. It’s safe to use up to four times a day, every day.

Avoid Allergens

Avoid Allergens

Many children with eczema also have allergies or asthma, and the same substances that can cause wheezing or hayfever-like symptoms can also set off eczema flare-ups. Pollen, dust mites, mold and pet dander are common culprits, as are certain detergents, perfumes, wool, and other scratchy fabrics. Try to look for patterns in your child’s attacks while reducing their exposure to common triggers. Wash bedding regularly in hot water to kill off dust mites, and use dust-mite-proof covers on mattresses. Even bodily fluids like saliva and sweat can set off eczema flare-ups in some children. If your baby is prone to eczema around their mouth, try applying petroleum jelly to the area before feeding.

Treat the Itch

Treat the Itch

Soothing your child’s itch as much as possible not only leaves them more comfortable in the moment, but it also reduces the risk of further damage caused by scratching. Teach a child that scratching will make their symptoms worse, but don’t rely on “don’t scratch” during flare-ups – it won’t help their discomfort, and the frustration may only make the urge all the more overwhelming.

Instead, try to offer alternatives. Applying a powerful, moisturizing anti-itch lotion like Sarna® Sensitive can provide rapid relief1. Some people like to keep their lotion in the fridge for an extra cooling effect. You can also offer icepacks or a few ice cubes wrapped in a damp cloth – remember to moisturize afterwards to avoid skin drying out as the water evaporates.


Emotional and Social Support

Sleepless nights and self-consciousness about visible symptoms can be tough on anyone’s emotional state. And as if that wasn’t enough, stress can make eczema symptoms worse. Make sure your child knows that a lot of people have eczema; they’re not abnormal or at fault for having it, and it can’t be passed to anyone else.

Try to introduce them to other children with the condition so they know they’re not alone. Don’t hesitate to consider counseling if the challenges of eczema are getting them down.

Dealing with Eczema at School

Dealing with Eczema at School

Try to meet your child’s teacher at the start of the school year to discuss their diagnosis. Make the teacher aware of any signs your child is dealing with itch – fidgeting and wriggling could be otherwise misinterpreted as inattention, or even a sign of a different condition such as ADHD. Share techniques that you’ve found help minimize scratching but ask that the teacher avoids unhelpful comments like “stop scratching!” It can be helpful for students and teachers to have an agreed-upon hand signal with which to ask for, or offer, permission to step outside and practice self-care such as applying moisturizer, using an icepack, or visiting the nurse’s office.

Reach Out

1. Fleischer A, Johnson K. Comparative efficacy and patient preference of 1% pramoxine lotion and 1% hydrocortisone cream in reducing pruritus in mild atopic dermatitis. Poster presented at: the American Academy of Dermatology 2006 Annual Meeting; March 3–7, 2006; San Francisco, CA.