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How to care for eczema-prone skin in children - tips from parents and experts(78 Posts)
Watching your baby or child suffer with eczema is really hard on you both. The good news is that, while eczema is common, there are also lots of things you can do to help.
So we’ve gathered together wisdom from dermatologists at La Roche-Posay and Mumsnetters who’ve been there to help you calm the itch and calm everyone’s nerves too.
Already found a solution for your child’s eczema? Please do share it on the thread below.
Tips for managing eczema in babies and children
1. Limit baths
Baths can really dry out the skin, so try to cut down how many your child has per week, particularly if they currently have a bath every day.
Showers are less drying on the skin but, if you do give your child a bath, keep the water tepid rather than warm and don’t put anything in the bath that might irritate their skin.
“My toddler has it too and I’ve found that cutting down baths to every two or three days does help.” - Logic
2. Ditch the soap
Soap can also make the skin dry so replace it with a soap-free cream body wash, also known as syndet, to tackle dry, itchy and eczema-prone skin. This will help to retain moisture rather than dry the skin out.
All the handwashing children now have to do is no help for eczema sufferers either, but obviously it has to be done. You can buy handwash made from emollient rather than soap and look for hand sanitiser that foams - the clear alcohol stuff will sting and make the skin dry.
“You need to avoid soap and bubble bath. Just plain tepid water in the bath only.” - PancakeSunday
3. Keep their skin hydrated
So much of keeping eczema at bay is keeping your child’s skin well hydrated. That means getting lots of water into them as well as lots and lots of moisturising - three times a day (or more if you can).
If they’re at school, try giving them a moisturiser stick that they can use on their hands and on the inside of their elbows and knees, and really slather on the moisturiser both morning and night.
“Has she seen the GP? My baby DD’s cleared up with twice a day moisturising, no more than two baths a week and steroid ointment. It’s staying away with regular moisturising. [...] For eczema you need to moisturise, moisturise, moisturise.” - AnneLovesGilbert
Related: Eczema quiz: can you sort the myths from the facts?
4. Choose natural fibres
Aside from specific baby eczema ointments, keep things as natural as you can. This includes opting for cotton clothes, hypoallergenic bed sheets and minimal products in the bath (though a handful of oats in an old stocking can do wonders).
“I found that if I avoided contact with chemicals and manmade fibres that really helped [my son]. So we've always used organic bubble bath, [...] 100% cotton etc.” - MilaMae
5. Try to get scratching down to a minimum
The eczema itch is so irritating and it can be hard to get children not to scratch. Try asking them to ‘gently stroke’ with their fingers or palms of their hands rather than with nails if possible, or give them a little moisturiser to rub in whenever the itch gets too much.
The more difficult bit is at night. Tiny ones can wear mitts but, for older children, socks will do the same job well.
“I would make sure they aren't too hot as that can dry out skin. You can also put socks on hands to stop any itching.” - Cookiecake
6. Keep them cool
Eczema often flares in hot weather when kids get sweaty and their skin irritated. Keep them cool at night with fans and a cracked window if you can, and ensure that their clothes are breathable and that they don’t have too many layers on.
“Keep them cool as overheating means they'll scratch more, and try to use natural materials etc as much as possible.” - Whitelisbon
7. Reduce stress
A bit of rest and relaxation is a cure for so many ills, so don’t underestimate its effect on eczema.
Many adult eczema sufferers find it flares up when they’re stressed, so it stands to reason that children will find the same. Do all you can to smooth the path for them when eczema rears its ugly head. Lots of early nights and relaxing play will help too.
“We found that sea water on holiday cleared up eczema in DS. Stress tends to make auto-immune disorders (allergies and eczema included) much worse, so lifting stress could well have helped. Sounds like a good case for more holidays!” - neversaydie
Related: What is imaginative play and how can I encourage it?
8. Consider diet
Infant eczema often goes hand in hand with other allergies, so you should seek advice from your GP if you think there may be allergies at play as they will be able to refer your child for tests.
Dairy is a common issue, but things like highly coloured fruit and veg, wheat, fish, eggs and peanuts can also trigger eczema. Don’t cut anything out of your child’s diet without consulting a doctor or medical professional first.
“My DS has severe eczema and has done since he was born. Nothing and I mean nothing seems to work - even the dermatologist is baffled. Recently we’ve switched from cow’s milk to goat’s milk and, fingers crossed, his eczema seems to be improving. It's early days yet but it's worth trying.” - jimmyjamas
9. Talk to the experts
There’s a large product offering on the market and it can be very confusing to know which one to use for your baby or child, but eczema is not something you have to deal with alone. Even if the solution happens to be a moisturiser you can find in your local supermarket or pharmacy, your GP can often get it for you on prescription.
You should always seek advice from your GP or health visitor and then follow it up afterwards. If preventative measures don’t work, your child may need a short-term steroid cream or a referral to a dermatologist. The help is out there though, so make sure you get what your child is entitled to.
“First, take her to the GP for a diagnosis. Whatever the GP gives you, make sure [...] that when you apply it you use gentle downwards strokes with the grain of the skin (a tip from the National Eczema Society who are awesome and have lovely nurses who will chat to you).” - overripebanana
Related: How to encourage healthy eating in kids
10. Be prepared to roll with the punches
Eczema is a tricky thing. The solution that works for someone else’s child won’t necessarily work for yours, and you may find you work through several different options before you hit on the one that works.
But (yes, we’re afraid there is a but), occasionally something that has worked in the past suddenly stops working, so be prepared to go back to the drawing board once or twice along the way.
“Trial and error guys! I’ve been through several years of this and found our working [solution] now!” - GettingItOutThere
About La Roche-Posay
"At La Roche-Posay, our mission is to provide a better life for sensitive skin, for you and for your little ones, so that you can enjoy some peaceful time together.
This is why we have created LIPIKAR Baume AP+M, a hydrating, soothing balm for dry and itchy skin, suitable for the whole family, including newborn babies. It’s also suitable for use on eczema-prone skin.
The minimalist hypoallergenic formula has a triple action efficacy. It immediately soothes the skin and provides up to 48 hours of hydration so that itching sensations caused by dry skin are reduced for long-lasting comfort. It also restores the skin barrier function, reducing the frequency of dry skin flare-ups, and helps to rebalance the skin microbiome."
Save 25% on La Roche-Posay Baby at Boots stores and Boots.com. *
*Offer valid until 05/10/2021. Available at larger Boots stores. Subject to availability.
Thread sponsored by La Roche-Posay
Definitely avoid wet wipes on eczema prone areas is another great tip I found really works
Tried everything, steroids, anti biotics, creams, washed from the GP and dermatology dept at the hospital didn’t help - for my daughter I cut out detergents as much as possible, Berts Bees bath and hair, dove pure bar soap for hand washing, and soap nuts for washing clothes, also used Aveeno baby cream as a moisturiser and that helped more than anything the GP / hospital prescribed. For my son I saw an article in the times by Dr Richard Aron (consultant dermatologist) and had a private consultation and prescription from him which cleared up my sons eczema in a couple of weeks. I hope this helps someone else as I remember how frustrating it was having little ones with eczema.
Limiting bathing doesn't work in alot of cases. If the eczema is severe then daily bathing to prevent infection is essential especially if using viscopaste or wet wraps.
DS was advised by Dermotology to take daily baths (with an emollient in the water).
I would sceptical about listening to professionals solely as where one recommended an intense steroid treatment and my second child was on the cusp of getting diabetes.
I say DO YOUR RESEARCH! Join Facebook groups targets toward adults/children with Eczema, be open but cautious to natural remedies.
Child Farm Products are a miracle, use them as soap and hair wash and don’t use any other products, not even cream unless they have a flare up and then use steroid cream lightly to control it. Cotton clothing where possible and don’t bathe every day. Most children grow out of it, both of mine don’t have any now (teens) but had it bad as babies.
More effective than any of that, I have found, is to add an extra rinse cycle to the washing machine. My son has perfectly normal skin now but if DH accidentally adds one of his t shirts to a quick wash of his own work clothes I can tell after the t shirt has been worn that it didn't get the extra rinse by looking at DS skin.
We tried so many creams and moisturisers including the well known brands and doctor prescribed.
In the case of our DD, we found out she was allergic to dairy so we cut all dairy and when I stopped bf (I was eating dairy!) her eczema completely cleared up.
She has loads of oily fish and avocado plus almond/soya milks and yoghurts.
Only thing the allergy clinic said was that some suntan lotions have milk protein in which had made her flare up massively.
Not necessarily practical but we moved from northern Europe to sub tropical climate and sons exzema cleared up within days and never returned even after returning to Europe after a few years.
Limit baths is not the latest advice from dermatologists - it's daily baths of max 7-10 mins in lukewarm water, pat dry and child's moisturiser applied liberally within 3 mins of leaving the water. Do not allow skin to fully dry out first, and no longer baths every.
I strongly recommend looking at all the cleaning and personal hygiene products that are used. Change everything to organic, the washing powder, shampoos, soaps, home cleaning products, , make sure all clothing is natural cotton and reduce the use of fragrant soaps in favour of simple castor or olive soaps. Eat as much as possible organic and reduce the amount of processed sugars and wheats. (White bread, cereals, cookies, candies)
The skin absorbs nearly all substances that are in any products so be very conscious of what you put on your childrens body. People often don't realize that the skin is a major "gateway" for unwanted chemicals. And all shop body care brands are full of huge amounts of questionable chemicals.
Try acupuncture. It can fix things that nothing else has fixed. Children and babies can be treated, it’s normal in China. It’s proven and shouldn’t be confused with woo.
Moo Goo Eczema cream has been a godsend for mine.
Wet wrapping worked for DS when he was little. Game changer
Stop both dairy and soya, allergy to both is common. Soya flour is used as a cheap filler so you need to be hyper-vigilant. Invest two weeks and be super strict about it and you will see an enormous improvement.
We had a water softener fitted for the house and that helped a lot. Not an easy or cheap thing but it did help. We're in a very hard water area.
I really rate aveeno. You can do similar with a muslin with oats in that the bath water runs over Apparently. Not tried it but there's stuff on the net.
Nappy rash with a little one with eczema is very quick to appear. We made sure to bathe bum every night sometimes twice a day. Nappy off is good for skin but difficult for other obvious reasons!
Oh and the best baby bum cream is the one in the yellow tube. It's miles better was for us anyway.
Aveeno, cetraben, double base etc it’s trial and error with creams and treatments. Don’t use anything with fragrance. And I’m sorry but Ulay, No. 7, Clarins, Organics, La Roche Posay etc wasn't moisturising enough whatever the marketing tells you!
I have said this before when the subject has come up here.
Please bear in mind that applying cream, no matter which cream it is, can bloody hurt on eczema! I have memories of being held down several times a day while my parents conscientiously applied whichever cream was the "prescription de jour" and I screamed and cried. They wouldn't listen, they (and the doctors) assumed it was the eczema that hurt, but it was when the cream went on.
Also, although I did "grow out of it" to an extent , I am in my 50s and still get the odd flare every so often, at times of stress usually.
Find what works for your child!
I had about a third of my body flare when I was pregnant (with DD not with any of my son's now I think about it ) and the only thing that have me relief without pain was vegetable oil! I smelled like chips, but it worked!
Be prepared to try anything and everything til you find what works.
The water that oats have been soaked in is the only relief from itching that I've found. Don't use soap or detergents or tissue, apply to affected area with cotton until itching subsides. Dab dry and apply Aveeno. It may not clear it up permanently but even some relief is welcome.
Don't use any food based products on a baby with eczema as this can lead to food allergies. Watch for products containing e.g. peanut oil or coconut oil.
For my baby, I had to eliminate all of his food allergies from my diet while breastfeeding and he required strong prescription steroids to help his severe eczema.
We've been told to give daily baths and apply moisturiser to damp skin to lock in the water.
I had chronic eczema as a child and still have the occasional flare up. I’m 50 now. Daily baths help, often I add salt (table salt will do). I can only use Aveeno on my face and hands at the moment but that could change when suddenly my skin decides it doesn’t like it anymore. The only thing that truly works to heal it (aside from steroid cream and I do use it without worry when my skin gets unbearably sore) is the sun so I sit in it for short periods of time when I can on sunny days. I had multiple allergies as a child and reactions to all childhood immunisations but they’ve eased over the years. You just learn to manage it but it can be debilitating. My mum used to get far more upset about it than I ever have. Salty baths have always helped me. I also sleep with socks on my hands when they’re really sore. I don’t really know what I’m allergic to these days and I’m not even convinced that my eczema/dermatitis is triggered by allergy or stress or anything really, it just is what it is.
We use CeraVe and couldn't be happier with the results. We had to try like 10 creams before finding the right one but this one is doing the trick
@SophieKat1982 thank you for your post, its interesting to hear you say your mum has found it more upsetting than you - I find my daughter's eczema and allergies a very emotional thing. When she's having a bad day I feel totally responsible. What allergies did you have and grow out of?