Your home could be a trigger for an eczema flare in your child. But there are lots of ways to keep everyday household items from setting off that 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. It’s especially true if you've got a baby who's crawling.
Natural fibers are also a good choice for drapes and furniture upholstery.
Detergents and household cleaners with a heavy scent 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 ones that are dye-free, too.
Labels can be misleading, though. Some cleaners that claim to be fragrance- and dye-free still have additives that can irritate skin. It can sometimes take trial and error to find out which ones are best for your child. If you notice their eczema flaring, switch to something else.
Adigun recommends vegetable oil-based cleaning products because they're especially gentle on sensitive skin. Look for the National Eczema Association's Seal of Acceptance on cleaning products.
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. They can be comfy homes to lots of mites.
Most bedding can attract dust mites. You can buy a dust mite protective cover for your child's mattress. Although it won't prevent eczema, it may help with asthma and other allergies.
The same advice about fabrics goes for your child's clothes. Stick with natural, breathable fibers, like cotton. That’ll give them a layer of protection but won’t make them itch.
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 scratches while sleeping.
Winter can be a challenge for kids with sensitive skin.
"The best way to prevent flares of eczema is by moisturizing constantly," says Nanette Silverberg, MD, director of pediatric and adolescent dermatology at St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York.
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 lukewarm, so skin isn’t irritated. Afterward, pat your child's skin dry -- never rub. Then apply a layer of moisturizer.