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How to Care for Childhood Eczema

Fend Off Dry Skin

You can keep eczema flares under control and your little one more comfortable by managing the things that set flares off, called triggers. Dry skin is a major eczema trigger. Moisturize your child’s skin often. Ointments like petroleum jelly may trap in moisture better than lotions. Baths can dry out the skin, so use warm water, not hot. Then apply a good moisturizer while your child’s skin is still damp.

Will It Go Away?

Your child may not have eczema forever. For many kids, the itchy patches start to go away around school-age. Others may have eczema into their teen years and even as adults, though. Sometimes, eczema seems to have vanished only to reappear during puberty. Changes in hormones may be to blame.

Stop the Itch

Scratching can make eczema worse and cause patches of skin to get thick. Help your child stop scratching by avoiding itchy fabrics like wool. Keep her nails trimmed short. If she tends to scratch in her sleep, give her light, comfortable gloves to wear to bed. During the day, putting a wet, cool washcloth on irritated spots can ease itching.

Help Kids Keep Their Cool

Sweating can cause eczema to itch, too. To keep your child cool, dress her in light, breathable fabrics like cotton. Try light layers so that it’s easy for her to put on or take off a layer to stay comfortable. Keep your house cool, especially her bedroom. Use lightweight sheets and bedspreads.

Allergy Attack

Allergies and eczema often go hand in hand. Ask your doctor if your child should be tested for food allergies or other allergies. Avoid allergy triggers like pets, especially in your child’s bedroom. Wash sheets often in hot water and use anti-dust mite covers on mattresses and pillows. Go without carpet and drapes, if possible. They trap allergens.

De-Stress

Stress can cause itching and redness for kids with eczema. Help your child identify situations that are stressful, like a big test at school or having to perform in public. Then talk about ways she can manage that stress. Some ideas: Take a few deep breaths, meditate, think of something else as a distraction, or take a break from the difficult situation or activity.

What the Doctor May Order

For many kids with eczema, your doctor may prescribe a cream or ointment with a corticosteroid in it. These should only be used with a prescription, because the dosage is specific to your child. Do not use this for more than the prescribed amount of time, as it can make the skin thin if used for too long. Only put the ointment on the areas of skin that are affected by eczema.

Other Medical Options

If your child has allergies, antihistamines can sometimes help ease itching. Sometimes, if your child’s rash is severe or infected, a doctor may prescribe other medications, too. But remember: Preventive care can go a long way to help eczema not become worse.

Control Infection

Keep an eye out for signs of skin infection: fever, redness, and warmth around the affected areas of skin, and bumps or blisters. Kids with eczema are more likely to get them. If your child has a skin infection such as herpes or a staph infection, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to treat it.

Eczema and Emotions

Children with eczema may face teasing and embarrassment. And they may struggle with self-esteem. A support group or even a camp for kids with eczema and other skin conditions can be a great way to help your child feel less isolated. They can help her make friends who understand what she’s going through. The National Eczema Association has a patient conference and kids’ camp every summer.

Caring for Your Child's Eczema

Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD on December 23, 2013

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