As I’m sure you know, there is no cure for eczema. I’m sure you also know that managing eczema can be exhausting for everyone involved. It’s hard (to say the least) to watch someone you love go battle eczema. It is equally difficult to be a part of the support system for someone with eczema. You are probably asking yourself: What can I do to make this easier for my little one? What can I do to make this easier on the entire family? Remember that your child’s eczema is not your fault.
What exactly is eczema (atopic dermatitis)?
Atopic dermatitis is a chronic (long-term) skin condition that manifests itself in a variety of ways. Eczema is another term for it.
Eczema causes the skin to become dry and itchy, and a rash may develop. There are usually times when the condition is worse and times when it is better. A flare-up occurs when the conditions worsen. Flare-ups are more common during the winter months when the air is dryer, but they can occur at any time of year.
Keep An Eye Out For Eczema Triggers.
It is critical to become more aware of what triggers your child’s behavior. We often talk about environmental or food triggers, but there are others. Exposed skin, for example, can be an itch trigger. It could be diaper changes for babies. For older children, it is sometimes during or immediately after the bath. Itch triggers include stressful situations, as well as mindless or sedentary activities when one’s hands are free (as when watching TV or talking on phones). Bedtime can also be challenging. That’s when you have nothing else to think about but the itch.
Once you’ve identified your child’s itch triggers, you can use some of the coping strategies listed below to help reduce scratching.
It may be useful for you to explain eczema to others
This may reduce the number of questions people ask. It will also help others understand some of what your child is going through.
Let Your Child be Involved in Their Eczema Treatment Plan
There are a ton of benefits to involving your little one in their own treatment plan! Your child may become self-conscious or uncomfortable with their skin as they grow older. Discuss your child’s eczema with them. Explain the significance of the routine and treatment to them.
This will allow them to learn more about their eczema, feel empowered that they can help manage it, and allow them the opportunity to ask questions. Giving them the control to manage their own eczema will ultimately help them fear it less. Have younger children that don’t seem interested? Make it a game or give them a reward for helping out. Strategies like this will help them stay interested.
Prepare Your Child (and Yourself) to Talk About Their Eczema with Others
When it comes to eczema, people are going to be curious and ask questions – especially kids at school. Being prepared with answers to frequent questions can make all of the difference! Sending your kid to school with simple, positive answers so that they are ready when it’s time to answer questions can make a huge difference! Simply letting them know that they have eczema and that it isn’t contagious should be sufficient information on the playground at recess! “I have eczema. It’s just itchy, dry skin. Don’t worry, it isn’t contagious!”
Contact Recognized Support Groups
You could contact recognized support groups in your area, such as the one organized by Eczema and Allergy Breakthrough – ScratchMeNot. You can find more information in the discussion section of this page. Talking to other parents or families may be helpful as they will have similar experiences to you and understand your concern and frustrations.
Keep Your Child Distracted
Distracting your little one and keeping them engaged in an activity that isn’t scratching is a huge help! Distractions that require the use of their hands are the best because if their hands are busy, they are less likely to use them to itch. Drawing, playing with blocks, painting, video games, etc. are just a few good examples of enticing distractions!
As I’ve talked about before on the blog: there is a significant connection between stress and eczema flare-ups. According to Tim Jewell and Debra Sullivan, Ph.D., MSN, CNE, COI of Healthline, stress causes a spike in the hormone, cortisol, and this excess of cortisol leads to abnormally oil skin which can ultimately cause an eczema outbreak. Some relaxation techniques include:
- Deep breathing – try box breathing or simply taking multiple slow and intentional deep breaths
- Coloring – this can be useful for you or your little one!
- Walking – 30 minutes of brisk walking in the sunshine
Relaxation and sleep go hand-in-hand. If your little eczema warrior is well-rested and relaxed, you might be able to avoid or decrease an eczema flare-up!
- Put the electronics away! Put your phone on “do not disturb” mode during the hours that you want to be asleep. We are human – none of us can resist a vibration or a ding in the middle of the night! Try and keep TV watching away from your bedtime to reduce your exposure to blue light.
- Be consistent! Make sure that your sleep schedule is consistent 7 days per week. Yes, that means that you’ll need to wake up at the same time on a school/work day as you do on the weekend. I know that sounds brutal, but I promise it’ll be worth it. Your body (especially your sleep cycle) doesn’t know the difference between a weekday and a weekend!
- The bedroom is for sleeping! Try your best not to work, watch TV, play on your phone, play a video game, etc. in your bedroom. The bedroom should be a sleep-only zone to ensure you don’t get distracted at bedtime.
- Shield your ears and eyes! Shield your eyes from light and protect your ears from the noise that might disrupt sleep. A good eye mask and ear plugs should do the trick. Just be sure to get an eye mask that won’t irritate your eczema! If you are afraid you’ll irritate your eczema with an eye mask, you might consider blackout curtains!
- Diffuse lavender! It is well known that lavender has the ability to promote a good night’s sleep. (If you’re into essential oils, check out this post and find out how they can help heal your eczema!)
Check out our blog post on sleeping with an eczema flare-up to learn more about sleep!