When your child with eczema is in day care or school, you won't have the same control over his environment as you do at home. But there are still plenty of steps you can take to prevent itchy flares and other problems while your child is out of the house.
Check Out the Day-Care Center
When choosing a day-care center, you first want to make sure it has a high-quality program with caring and experienced staff. The better the teachers, the more likely they'll listen to your concerns about eczema and take good care of your child.
Take a look around the center before putting your child there. Check to see that there aren't any obvious items than can irritate your child's skin. For example, make sure that there is "not a whole lot of plush carpeting [and] not a whole lot of stuffed toys, which most day-care centers have moved away from anyway because so many kids have a problem," says Chris Adigun, MD, clinical assistant professor of dermatology at the New York University School of Medicine.
Send Your Own Products With Your Child
Another worry is that the hand-washing products day-care centers use may dry out kids' skin or aggravate eczema.
"People use a lot of hand sanitizers at day care. And those products can have a lot of ingredients in them. Those can trigger a flare," says Elaine Siegfried, MD, professor of pediatric dermatology at Saint Louis University.
Send your kids to day care with their own cleaning and moisturizing supplies, such as a gentle cleanser like Cetaphil and a jar of petroleum jelly to treat dry skin.
Avoid Food Allergies
Eczema and food allergies often go hand in hand. The school cafeteria can be a risky place for kids with severe food allergies. You want to make sure your child isn't exposed to foods that could cause a reaction.
Peanut allergies are one of the most common food allergies -- and among the most serious. If your child has a known peanut allergy, Adigun says, make sure the school is peanut-free, or at least the classroom is. If the allergy is life-threatening, keep an EpiPen at school in case your child comes into contact with the offending food.
Also send your child to school with his own stockpile of snacks. "Try and find some very enticing snacks that are allergen-free that your kid can take to school with them, so they don't eat their friends' snacks," Adigun suggests.
Talk to the School
Don't wait for a problem to happen. Talk to your child's teachers and the school nurse ahead of time. Make sure they know about your child's eczema and allergies. Tell the teacher, "If you see that my child is having difficulty breathing or is starting to scratch, please call the nurse right away," Adigun says.
Leave any medicines your child takes, including steroid creams and antihistamines, at the nurse's office, along with a jar of petroleum jelly. "As soon as they're having a flare, they need to be treated right away," Adigun says.
Parents can prevent flares at school by taking good care of their child's skin at home. "If they do everything they can to make sure their child's skin is in control, it's going to stay in control," Siegfried says. Use the medicine your doctor prescribes. Keep your child's skin well moisturized with products like petroleum jelly and mineral oil.