This week's guest blog is from Zoe T. Williams, of My Allergy Kitchen; here she shares some great tips for managing childhood eczema.
If you’re like me and have a child with eczema, you’ll know that it’s more than just a dry skin condition!
It’s hard work to manage and keep on top of flare ups, with regular application of creams and ointments multiple times a day. With a wriggly toddler you may feel like you’re wrestling a greasy octopus, and with older children it can become a source of conflict in the home. Eczema is often incredible itchy and scratching can be one of the most difficult symptoms to manage in young children.
A bit about me
My daughter has suffered with eczema since she was a baby. She’s now nine years old and despite reassurances from the doctor that she would most likely ‘grow out of it’, the eczema is still there. Over the years we have developed our own way of dealing with eczema. We aren’t big fans of the creams our GP prescribed because they are thick and sticky and my daughter doesn’t enjoy using them at all. So here are our top tips for managing childhood eczema.
Identify and avoid triggers
My number one tip for managing childhood eczema is to figure out what your child’s triggers are, and avoid them! This will reduce the number of flare ups and make your child’s eczema much easier to keep on top of. There are many triggers for eczema, but common ones include:
- Soaps and bubble bath
- Laundry detergent and cleaning products
- Airborne allergens such as pollen, pet hair or dust mites
- Hot weather (due to heat, sweat and sunscreen)
- Cold weather (due to dry air from central heating)
Food sensitivities can sometimes be a trigger for eczema, and some families do notice that certain foods can cause a flare up. If you suspect this could be the case, keep a food and symptoms diary and speak to a health professional before you cut any foods out of your child’s diet.
There is no universally agreed diet that ‘cures’ eczema. However, some families notice that limiting certain foods can help improve symptoms. For us we have noticed that reducing (but not completely eliminating) wheat, dairy, sugar and meat, and instead eating LOTS more fruits and vegetables has massively helped my daughter’s skin. We did this under the guidance of an alternative health professional.
Clothing and bedding
Some fabrics can irritate eczema-prone skin. Wool can feel itchy, whereas synthetic fabrics can trap heat. Cotton clothing and bedding is soft and breathable and is much better for sensitive little ones. This is particularly important for night time when children can get hot and sweaty under the covers. Look for organic cotton for fewer chemicals.
Summer can be a tricky time for those with eczema. We know that heat, sweat and sunscreen are common triggers. High SPF sunscreens can actually make eczema worse as they convert the sun’s radiation into heat. So if you do need a high SPF, try to use a mineral sunscreen, as this doesn’t have the same effect. We tend to use a medium SPF, cover up with clothing and a hat, and stay out of the sun as much as possible.
Dealing with Flare Ups
Even with the best management in the world and removing triggers as much as possible, flare ups can still happen from time to time. So here are a couple of less well-known techniques we use to help ditch the itch.
This can be a helpful technique to cool down very hot, inflamed eczema. It involves putting a thick layer of moisturiser on the skin, covering with wet bandages, followed by a second layer of dry bandages over the top. This can be left on for an hour or two, or overnight. We often use it in the summer, as the wet bandages help to cool the skin down. It also covers up the eczema which helps to reduce the damage done by scratching. You can use wet wrapping with all ages including babies.
We recently learned a new technique to help cope with itching, called the Emotional Freedom Technique, also known as ‘tapping’. This apparently works by tapping on acupressure points in the body to calm the itch. Whether this is true or not, it is a great distraction and can help to calm down an itchy child. Often the more upset they are, the more they scratch and the more upset they become – which can become a vicious cycle. We learned how to do it from this great YouTube video No More Itching With EFT!
While there is no cure for eczema, there is a lot you can do to improve your child’s symptoms significantly. This can make them feel more comfortable and help reduce reliance on emollients and steroids. I hope these tips have given you some new ideas for managing your child’s eczema.
Zoe T. Williams is passionate about supporting families with food allergies, having two daughters and a husband with multiple food allergies and intolerances. Right now, she is busy in the kitchen concocting new allergy-friendly recipes for her blog, My Allergy Kitchen. Her book, The Busy Parent's Guide to Food Allergies is out now on Amazon and aims to take allergy parents from overwhelmed to empowered in easy bite-size chapters.