1. Moisturise, moisturise and then moisturise again
With eczema, the skin is usually dry which makes it an attractive home for bacteria to live. The skin also does not function well as a protective barrier as it would normally. Regularly moisturising the skin keeps it well hydrated, stopping bacteria living on the its surface and causing infection. Moisturising will also provide a surface barrier to prevent allergens irritating the skin’s surface and causing itching and redness.
Are all moisturisers for eczema the same?
Thick ointments are generally more effective for eczema. This is because, unlike creams which can be made of up to 50 per cent water, ointments do not contain water. Water evaporates quickly from the skin taking hydration with it. Creams are also more likely than ointments to contain harsh preservatives which can more easily irritate eczema skin.
The best time to moisturise is straight after the bath and while the skin is still a bit damp because this is when the pores of the skin are open and can absorb the most hydration from moisturising. You should also moisturise at least two to four other times during the day.
2. Bath time
Keep bath time short, no longer than 10 minutes, as having a long bath will dehydrate the skin. Test the water and make sure it is only lukewarm. Warmer water will raise the body’s core temperature and make the skin itchy.
Why is bath time important for managing eczema?
Bath times wash away triggers from the skin and also prepares the skin for moisturising after. Use this opportunity to use bath products which moisturise the skin, such as bath soaks and bath oils. Avoid soap and bubbles as these dry out the skin and strip the skin of its protective barrier. Changing towels regularly is also important to minimise the chances of infection from skin bacteria.
3. Keep your child cool
What is the most common eczema trigger?
Heat. Warm weather, warm clothing and warm bedding can all cause eczema to flare up. This is because children with eczema cannot cool themselves down as quickly as those who do not have eczema. Dressing your child in cotton clothing which allows the skin to breathe is best for eczema. Rather than dressing your child in heavy jumpers and outerwear, try to layer their clothes to make it easier to regulate their body heat. Check what bedding you are using for your child and choose cotton sheets and light cotton blankets instead of doonas and duvets.
4. Be prepared to treat a flare up quickly
Once your child’s eczema has flared up, treating it quickly will reduce distress, discomfort, sleepless nights and the chance of infection.
What do I do if my child’s eczema has flared up?
If your child’s eczema has flared, seek your doctor’s advice. Steroid ointments can be applied to the skin before using your regular moisturiser when treating a flare up, and be sure to follow up with your doctor if your child’s flare-up is not improving.
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5. Committing to an eczema skincare routine
It is important to understand the necessity of keeping to a skin care routine which you do every day for your child, even when they are not showing any signs of eczema.
What is an eczema skincare routine?
Basic skincare routines will include bathing daily using a skin hydrating product in the bath, followed by applying a thick moisturiser immediately after. Finding products which are effective is often a case of trial and error but once you have found them, and you are using them routinely, your child’s eczema will be better managed and flare-ups will be reduced.
If you are concerned about your child’s skin please see your healthcare professional for advice.
Julia Simmonds is a pharmacist and founder of the Itchy Baby Co.