Managing Eczema at School (For Parents)
Eileen Bailey | Sept 28, 2017
Reviewed by Michael Lehrer, MD on Dec 10, 2017
There are 9.6 million children in the United States under the age of 18 who have eczema according to the National Eczema Foundation. Eczema is a skin condition that causes red, scaly, dry skin and intense itchiness. These symptoms sometimes make it difficult for children to focus in school and their grades can suffer. Continue reading to find out ways parents can help.
Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize
Keeping skin moisturized is essential for managing eczema symptoms. It helps to use an emollient, such as petroleum jelly, overnight. After a bath, pat your child’s skin dry and apply the emollient. Reapply in the morning to any dry or red patches of skin. Your doctor might recommend other ointments or emollients.
Send a care kit to school
Create an eczema care kit, including moisturizer, emollients, antibiotic cream, steroidal cream, alcohol-free hand sanitizer, a gentle hand cleanser, gauze pads, bandages and other supplies you usually use at home during an eczema flare. Request a letter from your doctor explaining what is in the kit and how and when to use each item. Ask that the kit remain in the classroom or in the nurse’s office.
Talk to your child's teachers
Set up a meeting with your child’s teacher. Explain what eczema is and how it interferes with your child’s learning. If your child has trouble sleeping because of itch and discomfort, be sure to mention this. Discuss ways the teacher can help, such as applying a cool cloth on the affected area, having your child drink cool water when overheated, and having your child sit away from radiators and sunny windows. Share Tools for School: An Educator’s Guide.
Keep track of triggers
Keep a diary with information on flares including the date and the severity of symptoms. Write down any potential triggers, such as overheating, sweating, food allergens, stress, or irritants that your child was exposed to leading up to the flare. Knowing your child’s triggers can help you take steps to avoid them in the future to prevent flares.
Discuss classroom modifications
Your child’s teacher might be willing to make some accommodations to help your child, for example, special seating away from heat sources and having your child wear gloves when using glue or paint. If your child’s eczema is severe, consider requesting an educational evaluation to determine eligibility for a Section 504 plan, which includes accommodations to help your child manage eczema during the school day.
Suggest talking to classmates about eczema
The Tools for School: An Educator’s Guide provides information for teachers on how to help other students understand what eczema is and the importance of being kind and supportive of those with eczema. Offer to provide additional resources if needed. When classmates better understand what your child is going through and why, they might be more apt to include your child and provide understanding and support.
Skip the school lunches
If your child has food allergies, which are common in children with eczema, pack lunches and snacks with foods you know are okay. Even on days when the main lunch doesn’t include allergens, your child can be exposed. For example, peanut and peanut oil can be in a variety of foods or other foods can be contaminated when in proximity of peanuts. If your child has a life-threatening food allergy, make sure the school is aware and provide an EpiPen to be kept in the nurse’s office.
Practice stress management techniques
Stress is a common trigger according to the National Eczema Foundation. Teach your child deep breathing and other stress reduction strategies. Encourage your child to be involved in fun activities and offer support and understanding.
Practice self-care at home
Help your child learn to apply emollients and other topical medications to affected areas. Teach your child how to bandage open lesions so they don’t become infected. Teach your child the warning signs of an eczema flare and instructions on what to do. Giving your child the tools to practice self-care can help them feel more in control of their condition.
Be aware of social concerns
Children with eczema can sometimes be the target of bullies because of the lesions. Other children might shy away because they are scared of how eczema looks or worry that it is contagious. Talk to your child about their interactions with their classmates and ask the teacher to be aware of potential bullying or social ostracizing. Living with eczema is stressful but having friends at school can make it easier.