Skin Care & Handy Hints For Children With Eczema

Skin Care & Handy Hints For Children With Eczema

The treatment your child needs for eczema will change from time to time. Check expert advice and handy hints about caring for your child with eczema.

Key points to remember about eczema care in children

  • eczema can affect any part of the body and can change a lot from day to day
  • the treatment your child needs for eczema will change from time to time
  • skin with dry, red, itchy, inflamed active eczema gets infected easily - infection is the most common cause of eczema becoming worse or flaring - antiseptic baths can help
  • avoid contact with cold sores - the cold sore virus can cause severe painful infection - see your doctor if you think eczema is infected with the cold sore virus
  • your surroundings may irritate or trigger eczema - these include soap, detergent, dust, pet fur, house dust mites and overheating
  • babies with eczema can develop food allergies - removing foods does not usually improve eczema and can be dangerous, leading to anaphylaxis - see your doctor if you are still concerned about food allergy
  • a few children will still have bad eczema even with good skin care and need to see a specialist

Eczema skin care

Bathing

Have a bath every day in warm water for 10 minutes or less. Have a bath twice a day when eczema becomes worse or flares.

Wash the skin thoroughly from head to toe with a soap substitute. This can be the same cream you use to moisturise the skin, or any non-soap product. Put it directly on the skin with your hand, not flannels and cloths.

After bathing pat skin dry, but do not rub. Do not share bath towels. Put creams on immediately after the bath.

Antiseptic baths twice a week can help prevent infection and improve eczema - see When and how to use bleach baths for your child with eczema.

You can use antiseptic bath oils but these are not funded on prescription. When using them, follow the instructions on the container.

Shampoo hair after bathing and rinse off over a basin or in the shower.

Moisturiser

Put lots of moisturiser all over the body after bathing and let it soak into the skin.

Moisturising often, every day, reduces topical steroid use. Use a lot more moisturiser during eczema flares.

Topical steroids

Put topical steroids on immediately after the bath, before moisturising. If your child complains it stings, mix it with moisturiser and apply.

Don't wait for eczema to get really bad before starting to use steroid creams. When the skin is no longer red and itchy, STOP topical steroids and keep moisturising every day. Restart as soon as the skin gets itchy or red again.

If your child has areas of eczema which repeatedly flare up, your doctor may advise regular but less frequent application of steroid cream as maintenance.

Handy hints when caring for your child with eczema

Tips for using creams

Wash your hands before and after applying creams.

Let your child help to apply their own creams.

Choose products without fragrance and perfume.

Avoiding scratches to the skin

Keep your child's fingernails and toenails clean, filed and short.

Keeping the temperature right for your child

Don't dress your child too warmly and keep the bedroom cool.

Choosing the right fabrics

Avoid putting scratchy fabrics next to your child's skin.

Trying to control the dust

Damp dust and vacuum the house regularly.

Protecting skin when swimming

Chlorine swimming pools may make some children's eczema worse. Put on moisturiser before swimming. Shower after swimming and then put moisturiser on again. Some children prefer saltwater pools or the sea.

Sun protection

The best sun protection is shade and clothing. You can use sun creams on skin without active eczema. Choose a sun cream for sensitive skin with an SPF 30 or more.

Hand eczema

If your child has eczema on their hands, avoid hand soap but use sorbolene instead.

This content has been developed and approved by the Clinical Reference Group for the Paediatric Society NZ's Eczema Clinical Network.

This page last reviewed 02 October 2019.
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