Eczema - How can we help our children?

Eczema is a well-known condition that is very familiar to parents and grandparents around the world. Eczema can make a child’s skin red, sore and itchy. Fortunately there are treatments available as well as a range of things that you can do in the home environment to prevent or relieve your child’s symptoms. Some of the important things that you can try are outlined in the following article, so please read on.

Ensure the child has a regular skin care routine.

A regular skin care routine is undoubtedly the best way to address your child’s eczema. The number one key tip is to use plenty of moisturizer. There should be no times during the day when your child is allowed to get dry skin. The secret to keeping the skin well moisturized is to apply lots of thick and gooey moisturizer to the skin, not aqueous cream. Aqueous cream will simply wash off in a matter of minutes and be almost entirely ineffective. It is important to note that the skin is easily damaged in dry and winter climates and thus extra care must be taken here to be extremely vigorous with moisturizing. Also it is vital to keep using the moisturizer even when you believe the skin has healed. This is because the skin in those suffering from eczema has more holes in it than people without eczema and so moisture can escape easily.

Triggers may make things worse.

Every child will have things that make their eczema worse and we call these things triggers. Sometimes it gets worse after they have been running around and are hot and sweaty. Or perhaps it gets worse with various types of soap care products. The best thing to do is to look out for the things that you think may be making it worse and simply avoid them. This simple step can often make a world of difference for your child.

Please stop itching.

One of the worse things for young children with eczema is that it can be extremely itchy. So if you can stop them from itching all the time this will greatly relieve their symptoms and make them more comfortable. One of the ways to do this is by not allowing them to get to hot and sweaty. This can be difficult in active children, but encouraging showering and moisturizing straight after exercise can help. The problem with getting hot and sweaty is that the sweat can make the skin itchier and so even things like keeping the child’s bedroom cool may help.

It is important to avoid clothes and bedding made from synthetic or rough fabrics. Fabrics made from nylon and wool may irritate a childs skin more than cotton bedding and clothes. Although it sounds bizarre it is important to not wash with soap and instead use a soap substitute. You should advise the child to avoid hot baths and tell them to instead take long warm or even cool baths. Fingernails should be kept short so that scratching does minimal damage, when despite your best efforts the child continues to scratch. Babies may be able to use anti scratch mittens depending on how well they tolerate them. Non-biological washing powders should be used when laundering and fabric softeners should be avoided. It is also important to note that routine vaccinations make children’s eczema symptoms worse and can cause flare-ups.

Should I change my child’s diet?

Many people believe that if their child has eczema they need to radically change what they are feeding the child, well this is not usually the case. You should always talk to your doctor before considering a change in diet. It is not proven that some foods are related to eczema and to date there is poor evidence supporting those who believe that there is. Because children require many important nutrients to ensure that they are growing well, diet should never be changed without consulting your doctor or dietician.

There have been many studies on the topic of diet and eczema and although the evidence is not good. Some studies have shown that taking vitamin E supplements can help with symptoms. However there are just as many studies saying that they show no difference. Cutting cows mil out of the diet only improves symptoms in those children who are allergic to cows milk and does not help in other children with eczema. Other supplements such as probiotics, which contain good bacteria, may have some positive effect. Many parents have tried diets where they cut out all but a few key foods and see of this improves symptoms. There is no evidence for this approach and this may prove to be harmful for the child, as they may not get the nutrients that they need.

What about complementary medicine?

Many complimentary medicines have been tried in the treatment of eczema. This is not evidence based and more studies are needed to know whether these treatments have any effect or not. It is important to talk to your doctor before trying a complementary medical treatment as these treatments do have side effects and can react with other medicines. Studies were done to see of Chinese herbal medicine was useful in the treatment of eczema and 2 studies found that it helped and the other two found that it did not help. In one small study massage was found to help children with eczema cope better with their illness. It did not make any difference what particular massage oil was used.

If you’re pregnant

So if you happen to be pregnant (first of all congratulations), but you know that eczema runs in your family, you may wonder if there is anything you can do to prevent it. Well one study has shown that eating foods containing ‘good bacteria’ in the last few weeks of pregnancy and then giving them to your baby when it is born (via breastfeeding) may reduce the risk of the child getting eczema. Unfortunately this was a small study and more research needs to be done to confirm the findings. No studies have been done looking at whether breastfeeding your baby can help reduce their risk of obtaining eczema. As well as this there has been little research looking at what you eat during pregnancy as a cause or preventer of you’re child getting eczema.

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