Managing Eczema in Children
Eczema can be especially troublesome, and even unbearable, for some children when they suffer from those irritating symptoms of dryness, itching and inflammation. If you are a parent of a child with eczema, you will suffer with them and want to do everything you can to relieve the symptoms.
How Important is a Skin Care Routine?
Too much heat and sweat can make the skin even more irritated and itchy. When the body sweats, valuable water and moisture is lost from the skin. Keeping the skin moisturized is key to controlling this affliction. It is vital to establish a skin care routine. A daily bath helps to moisturize the skin, using moisturizing aqueous cream rather than ordinary soaps for cleaning. The temperature should be just warm and it is helpful to soak for 15 to 20 minutes so that the skin’s outer layer can absorb moisture.
Avoid any excessive scrubbing. For an additional soothing treat, add colloidal oatmeal like Aveeno to the bath, and even use oatmeal as a soap substitute. For the bath, pour 2 cups of colloidal oatmeal into the lukewarm water. This oatmeal is a fine powder that will remain suspended in water. For use as a soap substitute, wrap colloidal oatmeal in a handkerchief, place a rubber band around the top, wet it, wring it out and use as you would a normal washcloth. After the bath, the skin should be partly dried by gently patting with a towel to remove excess water while still leaving the skin damp. Use an emollient cream for adding moisture to the clean but still damp skin.
The best moisturizer is a basic fragrance-free one that is more greasy than creamy such as Vaseline. Unfortunately, Vaseline is a petroleum byproduct but I have a recipe for a natural jelly to use instead. An emollient cream is even more important to use if your child is in an air conditioned or heated environment. Use the cream twice a day and even more often on the hands if they are affected.
Recipe for Natural Petroleum Jelly
- Place 1 oz. of beeswax in the top of a double boiler and heat slowly until it melts. Don’t put beeswax in the microwave or in a standard saucepan, as it is flammable when exposed to direct heat.
- Remove the melted wax from heat and squeeze the oil from six x 400 IU vitamin E capsules into the wax. Vitamin E has antioxidant properties which nourish and protect your skin while acting as a natural preservative to prolong the shelf life of your petroleum jelly.
- Stir in 1/2 cup of extra virgin or cold pressed sweet almond oil. Stir the ingredients constantly as the mixture cools and thickens. While still slightly warm, scoop the jelly mixture into a dark glass jar and leave unsealed to cool completely.
- Keep in a cool, dark place, or in your refrigerator. Use it as you would use commercial petroleum jelly.
- Of course a child with eczema is going to be very tempted to scratch those areas that itch. Keep their nails cut very short and covered with cotton mittens at night and more often if your child is young enough not to pull them off. The big problem with scratching eczema is that it triggers eczematous rashes. If you can stop the scratching, some eczematous rashes will actually disappear on their own.
A List of Home Remedies You Can Try
You may find that one or more of these are perfect for your child:
- Apply coconut oil to the affected area to keep the skin smooth and soft.
- Make a paste of 1 teaspoon sandalwood and 1 teaspoon camphor and apply to the eczema.
- Another paste can be made of 1 tablespoon each of turmeric powder and bitter neem leaves.
- Try just using water. Apply cold compresses or cold water. Cold, wet dressings can help soothe and relieve the itching associated with eczema.
- You can even use cold milk instead of water as this may be a lot more soothing. Put milk into a glass with ice cubes and let it sit for a few minutes. Then pour the milk onto a gauze pad or thin piece of cotton and apply it to the irritated skin for 2 or 3 minutes. Re-soak the cloth and reapply, continuing the process for about 10 minutes several times per day.
- Calamine lotion is good for many types of rashes that ooze and need to be dried out.
- Another suggested remedy for eczema is to dab some witch hazel on the affected area with a cotton ball.
- Some regular sunlight (in moderation) can be helpful as it tops up your child’s Vitamin D and kills harmful bacteria at the same time.
- Eczema is aggravated by dehumidified air, especially during winter months when forced-air heat circulates in the home. As this heat is more drying than other types, a good humidifier is an excellent home remedy for eczema. Make sure your humidifier is covering a sufficient area of the home (to be beneficial) and have one next to your child’s bed when he or she is sleeping.
- Cotton clothing worn next to the skin is kinder than other material. Bed linens and towels should be pure cotton too. Avoid all synthetic or itchy fabrics as well as tight or ill fitting clothing. Even labels on clothing can be a source of irritation.
- Eliminate any foods that can aggravate the eczema. Traditionally eggs, orange juice and milk have been suggested as eczema aggravators in children but it may well be something different such as tomatoes, citrus fruits, salty food, refined fats, white sugar, coffee, red meat or raw garlic. Allergy tests will ascertain if a particular food or diet is contributing to the eczema.
- Reducing the effect of house dust mites can be an important step to take as many children are affected by the allergens in the droppings of these mite that thrive in warm and moist environments, living in bedding, mattresses, curtains and carpets. Effective and regular vacuuming as well as damp dusting and the washing or airing of bedding will help with this. If you can change from carpeting to another form of flooring, even better.
It can take some time and effort to find the perfect combination of treatments to suit your child but well worth it to manage this eczema condition.