When Stephanie Knox’s 8-year-old daughter, Paige, starts scratching her eczema, sometimes she just can’t stop. "It’s really amazing how she can keep scratching and digging at her skin and still the itch doesn’t go away," says Knox. "So we’ve had to come up with some creative ways to help soothe her itchiness and help her stop scratching."
Eczema can cause unbearable itchiness for people of all ages, but children often have an especially hard time with scratching.
"The trouble with scratching is that it can actually make the condition worse," says Lawrence Eichenfield, MD, chief of Pediatric Dermatology at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego. "And, it can cause cuts in the skin that can become infected. So it’s important for parents to learn ways to help their child stop scratching."
8 Ways to Help a Child With Eczema Stop Scratching
1. Use Moisturizers Liberally
Keep your child’s skin properly moisturized. This can help keep eczema flare-ups and itching at bay. Thick ointments, such as petroleum jelly, contain more oil and are the most effective at locking in moisture. But not all children like the feel of thicker ointments. "I suggest parents let their older child try several moisturizers and choose which kind to use," says Eichenfield. "Because the best moisturizer is the one that your child will use." For the best itch relief, use moisturizers several times a day, especially after bathing or washing.
2. Use Wet Wraps to Sooth Itchy Skin
Knox says that using wet wraps is one of the most useful ways she’s found to stop Paige’s itching. The best time to apply wet wraps is right before bedtime. First, have your child soak in a lukewarm bath for about 5 to 10 minutes. After the bath, gently pat the skin dry with a towel and apply moisturizer or medication as directed. Next, moisten clean gauze bandages with water and wrap the affected skin. Then cover the wet bandages with a dry bandage or towel to lock in the moisture, and leave overnight. You can apply wet wraps on any part of your child’s body that is especially itchy. "Paige won’t let me wrap large areas, so we concentrate on smaller areas, like her ankles or elbows," says Knox. "She really likes the itch relief it gives her."
3. Keep Fingernails Clipped to Minimize Scratching
Short fingernails cause less damage to the skin if your child does scratch. If scratching at night is a problem, have your child wear cotton gloves to bed.
4. Use Cold Compresses to Relieve Eczema Itch
Try using a damp, cold washcloth, or cover an ice pack in a soft towel. Hold the compress to your child’s skin for a few minutes or as needed to help relieve itch. You can repeat as necessary throughout the day.