Eczema Awareness Week is held in September. It coincides with the start of the school year when many households will be adapting to a new routine for children starting or returning to school.
With all the excitement and preparation, we are mindful of the children out there with eczema and what this might mean for them. This year with the added emphasis on hand washing and use of hand sanitiser, in a bid to prevent the spread of Coronavirus, there is understandably more concern for those affected by eczema.
Some practical tips which may be of benefit:
- Try to have established a daily bath and emollient regime and continue this routine to aid sleep and prevent flares at this exciting and possibly stress-inducing time. If your child is prescribed topical steroids, ensure they are used correctly and step up treatment if flares occur as advised by your doctor.
- Aim to buy 100% cotton clothes, especially for garments that are directly in contact with the skin. Some online eczema clothing sites sell cotton shirts and trousers which can sometimes be hard to buy in local shops. When buying socks and tights, again be mindful of a high cotton content as opposed to synthetic fabrics.
- Hand washing with soap and using hand sanitiser at school will form part of your child’s new daily routine. Washing hands will help remove harmful bacteria and viruses and is critical to slow the spread of the coronavirus. To counteract the irritating effect of these products, applying hand cream immediately after washing will help heal dry skin and prevent cracking and reduce the risk of itching and scratching. This, in turn, will prevent the skin becoming infected. Allow hand sanitiser to dry before moisturising. Choose a hand cream in a tube that is fragrance free and ideally one that is oil based (an ointment or gel).
- Advise the teacher that your child has eczema. Forewarned is forearmed! This way the teacher can know in advance about the necessity of applying moisturising hand cream after hand washing, and for instance that it might suit your child to sit in a cooler part of the classroom as opposed to in direct sunlight or beside a radiator. If they are feeling hot or itchy, a gentle reminder to take off a jumper may help. If there is a sand table as there often is in the junior classes, ask the teacher to suggest rinsing hands after the activity.
Key PointsEstablish a daily bath and emollient routine. Aim to buy 100% cotton clothes. Advise teachers your child has eczema – and provide them with the information they need! Hands need to be washed with soap and water or use hand sanitiser. It is a challenge but children will have to pay more attention to hand care with emollient use in school, and at home parents may need to step up topical steroid use as required to manage their eczema.
- Some children might itch and scratch out of habit or if feeling anxious or insecure. If the teacher knows about this, they might help with distraction techniques to break the cycle.
- For older children, be aware that activity and sweating can exacerbate itch. If there is an opportunity to shower after exercise, encourage your child to do this.
Over time, most children with eczema will begin to take responsibility for their own skincare. If they know there is support both at home and at school, it will make the transition easier for both child and parents.