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Protect Your Child’s Skin From Irritants


Organic alternatives: A lot of products labeled “natural” or “organic” contain botanicals. “Although they come from plants, botanicals can cause children’s skin allergies and sensitivities,” Stein says. If sensitive skin is an issue, avoid using products that contain botanicals or plant-based substances, which may irritate delicate skin. You’ll also want to be cautious if a label touts “natural fragrance.” This is a mixture that may include irritating botanicals, Stein cautions.

Aerosol irritants: Although they don’t touch your children directly, air fresheners, incense, candles and other products that produce vapors can irritate young skin. “Aerosolized household products are huge triggers for skin reactions in kids,” Stein says. Aerosolized products may include stain removers, furniture polish, and even all-purpose cleaning products. The solution? Minimize your use of these products, particularly when children are around.

Furry friends: Pets can cause children’s skinallergies, sneezing, and itchy eyes, Stein says. The shampoo used to wash your dog or cat could also be to blame. The only sure way to rid your children of pet-related skin reactions is to eliminate the offending animal. If that’s not an option, consider the following:

  • Limit your child’s exposure to the dog or cat.
  • Clean your home often.
  • Bathe your pet at least once a week.
  • If possible, keep the animal outside.

Become a Skin Sleuth

When it comes to household skin irritants, you can only do so much to protect your children. If your child has already developed a reaction -- if he has dry, irritated, itchy skin -- it takes a good detective to pinpoint the exact cause. “Think back to the last few days -- what your child was doing and what he or she was exposed to -- and try to identify the allergen,” Fusco says. And remember: If a reaction is directly related to a product that touches the skin, it will usually appear on the areas that product was applied. If the reaction is more generalized, it may be from a household skin irritant you spray, such as furniture polish or air freshener. Once you’ve identified the offending skin irritant, remove it from your household.

Chill the Itch

If your child has itchy skin but you don’t think the reaction is severe enough to require a trip to the doctor, apply a topical anti-itch lotion that contains menthol, Fusco suggests. “Keep the lotion in the refrigerator so you can apply it cool. It will be more soothing to kids’ skin,” she says. If that doesn’t work, she suggests trying some over-the-counter 0.5% hydrocortisone cream.

When to Call Your Health Care Provider

You can often prevent children’s skin problems simply by avoiding known household skin irritants or by following some of the tips provided above. However, some situations may require your pediatrician’s expertise.

“If you have an active rash, you may need medication to heal it,” Stein says. Contact your child’s health care professional if any of the following occurs:

  • Your child develops a fever or evidence of an infection, such as redness, blisters, yellow crusting or oozing of fluid.
  • The rash is severe and does not respond to home treatment.
  • Your child’s rash spreads, or he or she develops another rash.
Reviewed on September 13, 2011

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