Managing Eczema: 5 Ways To Help Win The Itch-Scratch Cycle War For Your Child
Managing eczema in babies and children feels like a hard AND relentless daily battle! There’s nothing worse than seeing your little one scratch so bad they bleed. For parents it can be a heartbreaking condition that leads to extended periods of sleepless nights and difficult days. For children, it’s a never ending and painful frustration.
While every child’s eczema trigger differs, the relentless trial and error takes time – meanwhile your child is still suffering. The good news is there are some tried and true eczema management techniques that can help to make both your lives easier and more comfortable while you are determining conventional treatments with your healthcare provider.
Managing eczema symptoms with breathable fabrics
Dressing your child in breathable fabrics like 100% cotton or bamboo can soothe sore skin. Choosing a fabric which is both naturally hypo-allergenic and moisture wicking, means you won’t irritate already sensitive and can reduce flare-ups potentially made worse by synthetic fabric. Bamboo is the new kid on the block in eczema treatment but has proven effective because:
- Its fibres expand when warm to let skin breathe, and contract when cool to trap heat close to the body. It means it will keep your child’s body temperature regulated and prevent additional itching from overheating, but also keep them warm in the colder months.
- It has natural anti-bacterial properties which will not aggravate skin prone to infection
- It is the softest and least abrasive fabric to wick excess moisture away from the skin preventing further abrasion to sensitive skin. Research has shown that of the five leading “eczema friendly” fabric types available on the market that bamboo has the highest wicking effect, making it able to absorb more moisture, drawing it away from the body which in turn decreases the level of abrasion and damage to sensitive skin.
“Layering moisture” barrier technique
There will always be a never-ending array of ‘miracle creams’ for eczema, but the frustrating thing is that what works for one person often doesn’t on another. While you’re trying them to find the one that works best for your child, it pays to apply the layering moisturisers technique which can be done with most brands of cream.
Layering the creams from prescription ones first (if you’re using these), then a thin/lotion one through to a thicker/waxier one will give them the best chance to work their way into dry skin, so moisture is not only added to the skin, but a barrier is also created trapping this moisture in for longer and nourishing and re-hydrating the skin.
It can be compared to thinking of skin like a brick wall. Without the mortar to keep it all together, it will crack and break, followed then by a protective barrier like sealant or paint to add further protection.
Managing severe eczema symptoms with “wet wrapping”
Wet wrapping or wet dressing is a great technique to try during severe flare-ups. It’s the process of applying wet linen bandages or specially designed tubular garments (like Tubifast garments, made to fit over different body parts) over the top of layered moisturisers on the parts of the body affected by eczema.
The process of wet dressing is outlined in detail already at the The Royal Children’s Hospitals site by clicking this link, however in a nutshell, it is best done before bedtime, starting with letting your child soak in a lukewarm bath containing an eczema friendly bath oil.
Once they are out, you can soak the bandages or Tubifast garments in this water (or clean lukewarm water) while you apply your child’s creams or moisturisers as you normally would, layering them over the top of each other. The bandages or Tubifast garments are then applied on the eczema areas and left on for as long as possible or even overnight.
At first this process can seem overwhelming but the Tubifast garments specially designed for different areas of the body do make the process a lot simpler and easier. You can also use a cotton or bamboo jumpsuit or top or pants (depending on where the eczema is located on the body) and wet this, using it as the wet dressing!
Keep cool and carry on! Brisbane’s unique challenges for eczema flare ups
During flare-ups eczema kids tend to ‘run hotter’ than other kids due to the inflammation in their bodies. Brisbane’s long hot, humid summers are notorious for worsening eczema symptoms.
Using fans and keeping them cool however possible during hot weather can help reduce flare-ups. If out and about, carry a face washer in a zip lock bag with some ice blocks in it and use it to give your child a quick wipe down and keep them a bit cooler. Letting them play in a bath filled with cool water can help too when you’re at home together.
What about dry heat? If you don’t already have a vaporiser or humidifier these are a worthwhile investment for your eczema child. You can use it overnight (and it often helps with any asthma or cough symptoms that eczema children are sometimes prone to) or use it too during the day in their play space.
Managing Eczema by Keeping Scratching Hands or Feet Covered
It sounds too simple – just keep hands and feet as covered as you can at times when you can’t ‘supervise’ the scratching. This is easier with younger babies who can wear baby outfits that often are made with hand covers or mittens built in, but as they get older, this is one of the hardest things to do and eczema kids become experts in Houdini-like behaviour to find ways to escape to relieve their itch by scratching!
Baby mittens, gloves or even socks over hands or arms usually only work on very small babies, but thankfully there are now ranges of specialist eczema clothing available in the form of tops with opening and closing mitten sleeves, mitten sleeves with opening or closed mittens that only cover arms, pants with enclosed feet or even specially designed swaddling wraps or baby sleeping bags to keep hands enclosed, minimising any damage that trying to scratch can cause.
Severe eczema flare ups can be traumatic for parents and children. While you wait for your trigger to be diagnosed, managing eczema symptoms is the only way to reduce your child’s discomfort and your anxiety. It’s a tough situation, other parents don’t understand the daily challenges of a family with eczema and how difficult it can be.
About Our Contributor
Kelly Northey is the founder of Bamboo Bubby, products for relieving symptoms of eczema babies toddlers and children. The Bamboo Bubby Bag™ is a one size fits 6mth-2+ years baby sleeping bag made from the softest blend of bamboo and organic cotton fabric. Its unique enclosed, adjustable sleeve grows with babies throughout their entire first 2-3 years, allowing delicate skin to heal naturally while also providing a good night’s sleep.
The Bamboo Bubby Bag™ is available for sale at: www.bamboobubby.com.au