More than 1 million children will head off to school this fall struggling with the painful and embarrassing symptoms of eczema.
Eczema usually starts early, with the large majority of people being diagnosed before the age of 5 years old. Symptoms of eczema include:
- Dry, flaky skin
- Scaly or rough patches
- Red, inflamed skin
- Recurring rash
- Intense itch
Some people with eczema say the intense, never-ending itch is the worst, and scratching tends to only help for a few moments. Children can often scratch until the site is inflamed and bleeding. Besides the physical symptoms, however, many children are embarrassed by the way their eczema looks and some might be made fun or or shunned because of the chronic disease.
Below are six ways parents can help their children with eczema when sending them off to school:
Prepare the night before. To help relieve some of the itching, have your child soak in a warm tub for 15 to 20 minutes. When your child gets out of the tub, pat the skin dry (don’t rub, that can aggravate the eczema), and immediately apply an emollient or moisturizer. Talk to your child’s doctor about which products are best to use for overnight moisturizing.
Send moisturizer to school. Look for moisturizers that are made for sensitive skin and keep the moisturizer in your child’s backpack. If needed, talk to the school beforehand to let them know that your child should be able to be excused from class for a few minutes to apply the moisturizer if needed. Make sure your child knows to use the moisturizer immediately after washing their hands as the soap can aggravate symptoms. You might want to create an eczema first aid kit, with moisturizer, hand sanitizer (alcohol free), antibiotic ointment and other items you use at home to manage the eczema.
Know your child’s triggers. Eczema is different in each person but there are some common triggers for flares, such as stress, extreme weather (very cold and very hot temperatures), rough fabrics, harsh soaps and detergents, food allergies and pollen. Plan ahead to help your child manage stress or avoid other triggers. For unavoidable triggers, teach your child to take proactive steps, such as extra moisturizer, to help relieve the discomfort.
Talk to your child’s teacher. Eczema is a common condition, so chances are your child’s teacher has at least minimal experience with children with eczema and the problems that can occur. Let the teacher know how you handle flares at home and what the teacher can do to help alleviate problems in the classroom. Ask her to be on the lookout for bullying or problems with socialization. Let her know if your child seems fidgety, it might be from the itchiness and your child might need to go to the nurse to apply lotion. You might want to send your own products to be kept in the nurse’s office.
Encourage your child’s teacher to discuss eczema and how it affects children, without signaling out your child. This can help the other children understand when they see signs of eczema and why a rash might might appear. It can foster empathy and understanding.
Teach your child stress management. Stress is a very common trigger for eczema. Make sure your child is involved in enjoyable activities, talk to your child about stress levels and provide steps for reducing stress.
For more information:
“Eczema and School,” Date Unknown, Rachael Meade, RCH Education Institute: http://www.rch.org.au/uploadedFiles/Main/Content/derm/EczemaSchool.pdf
“Eczema: Tools for School,” Date Unknown, Staff Writer, National Eczema Association: https://nationaleczema.org/wp-content/docs/TFS_Parents_web.pdf
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.