Eczema in Infants and ChildrenI think my child has eczema. What now?
Before you visit your child's doctor, try a few self-care measures and make lifestyle adjustments to see if your child's skin clears or symptoms lessen.
- Soothe the itch. Reduce inflammation and itch by applying cool compresses to inflamed skin. Give an over-the-counter, age-appropriate dose of antihistamine to reduce the itch during a flare-up. Apply a gentle moisturizing lotion at least twice per day.
- Follow a gentle bathing routine. When it comes to the extremely dry skin of eczema, water can be the enemy. Ask your pharmacist to help you choose delicate, non-soap products to cleanse your child's skin, avoiding potentially irritating bath products, like detergent soaps, bubble bath, or products containing fragrance. Oatmeal-containing bath products are soothing. Pat-dry your child's skin and apply a thick lotion to lock in moisture while skin is still damp.
- Trim your child's nails. Keep those tiny nails trimmed short to prevent injury from over-zealous scratching. You might also give your child light gloves to wear at night to keep from scratching, which can let bacteria get beneath the skin and cause infection.
- Choose itch-proof clothing and diapers. Shun fabrics that are itchy or binding. Loose-fitting cotton clothing will let your child's skin breathe and help to prevent overheating or excessive sweating, both of which can trigger a flare-up. Wash clothes in hypo-allergenic laundry detergent. Notice if your choice of diapers seems to cause any irritation and make a switch to see if symptoms lessen.
- Keep cool - and be careful at the pool. Heat can worsen the symptoms of eczema. When spending time outdoors or in the sun, be sure your child takes breaks from the heat. Chlorine from the pool can inflame skin, but you can minimize the risk by cleansing your child's skin right after swimming. And if you are hesitant to slather sunscreen on your child's sensitive skin, shop for formulas specially designed for sensitive or eczema-prone skin.
- Clear out dust mites. Children's symptoms may be reduced if you can keep dust mites from accumulating in your home. Clean your child's room each week, wiping surfaces with a damp cloth and airing the room once you have finished. To limit the amount of dust in your child's room, limit the number of surfaces in the room, meaning minimal furniture and a no-furry-pets policy. Place plastic covers over your child's box spring, mattress, and in between pillow and pillowcase. Hardwoods can be easier to keep dust-free, but carpets and rugs should be fine if they're diligently vacuumed.
- Track your child's triggers. See if you can pinpoint a pattern in your child's skin flare-ups. You may note that your child's skin worsens after playing with a certain toy or when wearing a particular outfit. Triggers include detergents, soaps, fragrances, smoke, some foods, and emotional stress. Knowing what might cause your child's skin irritation could also help with diagnosis if you do decide to see a doctor. If food might be a trigger, talk to a dietitian about the safest way to eliminate foods from your child's diet without increasing the risk of nutritional deficiencies.
Make an appointment with your child's doctor if your child's skin does not improve after self-care steps and trigger-tracking or if the condition suddenly worsens. Seek prompt care if you notice signs of potential skin infection, including fever; redness or warmth on or around affected skin; pus-filled papules; or areas on skin that look like cold sores or fever blisters.
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