Don't let your home be a trigger for an eczema flare in your child. There are lots of ways to keep everyday household items from setting off an itchy rash.
Carpeting and Drapes
When you have a child with eczema, you need to set up an allergy-free home -- from the ceiling down to the floors.
All-cotton carpets or plain hardwood floors are better than man-made fiber rugs, especially if you've got a baby who's crawling, says Nanette Silverberg, MD, director of pediatric and adolescent dermatology at Roosevelt Hospital in New York.
Natural fibers are also a good choice for drapes and furniture upholstery.
Heavily scented detergents and household cleaning products can irritate eczema.
"I would definitely recommend finding cleaning products that are fragrance-free," says Chris Adigun, MD, clinical assistant professor of dermatology at the New York University School of Medicine. Look for cleaners that are dye-free, too.
Labels can sometimes be misleading, though. Some cleaners that claim to be fragrance-and dye-free still include irritating additives. It can sometimes take trial and error to find out which products are best for your child. If you notice your child's eczema flaring, switch to something else.
Adigun recommends vegetable oil-based cleaning products because they're especially gentle on sensitive skin. To help you shop, look for the National Eczema Association's Seal of Acceptance on cleaning products.
While you're cleaning, don't forget about the dust. Many kids with eczema are allergic to dust mites. To keep them away, vacuum and dust around your house at least once a week. Also wash stuffed animals, which provide comfy homes to lots of mites.
Many parents use man-made bedding to improve eczema in their kids. But man-made fibers actually harbor higher levels of dust mites, Adigun says. You're better off tucking children into a bed made with a cotton comforter and down pillows than in polyester or nylon bedding.
You can also buy a dust-mite protective cover for your child's mattress. Although it won't prevent eczema, it may help with asthma and other kinds of allergies.
The same advice on fabrics goes for your child's clothes. Stick with natural, breathable fibers, like cotton.
"Wearing cotton clothing will put a layer against their skin that's not itch-provoking," Silverberg says. Avoid man-made materials and itchy natural fabrics such as wool.
Cotton is also best for pajamas. Add a pair of cotton gloves if your child often scratches while sleeping.
Winter can be challenging for kids with sensitive skin. "The best way to prevent flares of eczema is by moisturizing constantly," Silverberg says.
Use heavy creams "that you have to squeeze out or scoop, rather than pump," Adigun says. And always keep a jar of petroleum jelly on hand. It can relieve even the most stubbornly dry skin. Apply a thick layer of moisturizer two or three times a day.
If cream isn't enough, turn on a cool-mist humidifier to prevent your child's skin from drying out.
To hold moisture in your child's skin, limit baths or showers to 5 or 10 minutes. Use a gentle soap and shampoo. Keep the water temperature lukewarm to avoid irritating the skin. Afterward, pat your child's skin dry -- never rub. Then apply a layer of moisturizer.