Cold little fingers, runny noses…and eczema?
For many children, winter means dryer skin and often eczema. The most common type of eczema can leave kids with red, inflamed, itchy, dry patches of skin. While eczema can affect children any time during the year, it is often worse when the temperatures drop and the indoor heaters start pumping out warm, dry air.
How can you help manage your child’s eczema?
Identifying your child’s specific triggers helps you control – and in many cases – eliminate it. With winter in full swing, we’ll concentrate on cold, dry air as a trigger.
Here are some ways to help manage eczema during the winter:
- Use a humidifier to beat the dry air. While multiple units around the house are ideal, one unit in the child’s bedroom is effective. Don’t forget to change the water every day. Stale water is a breeding ground for mold and bacteria, which can further aggravate dry skin.
- Just add oil. Let the skin soak up some extra oil as often as possible. Add it to the bath, just after a bath, and mixed with your favorite non-toxic creams as a daily full body moisturizer.
First try a small patch test to check for any possible skin reactions. Some beneficial oils are: virgin coconut, jojoba, hemp seed, emu, and olive oils. Raw, unrefined, shea butter, while not technically an oil, can be melted down easily in warm bath water.
Go beyond topical application and consider fish, flax, and borage oil as supplements for added moisture and omega fatty acids all year long. Oil does a body good!
- Wrap them up. For extra nighttime moisture, try dry wrapping. If your child will allow it, heavily moisturize the areas where the eczema is the worst with an oil/cream combo and cover the areas with cotton or bamboo bandages or clothing. Try covering hands with mittens or socks. Your kids probably won’t like it, but when our son sees the improvement in his skin the next morning, it’s not as hard to convince him to wrap up the next night. You may have to do this for several nights to see significant changes.
- Choose clothing carefully. Wool can be extremely aggravating and itchy for sensitive skin, as are most synthetic fibers. When possible opt for cotton or bamboo. Dress your child in layers, so items can easily be removed to prevent overheating. Sweat is an instant irritant for my son and is one of the most common eczema triggers, so you’ll want to avoid it at all costs. Also, take care to remove wet clothing as soon as possible, which can cause chaffing and irritation.
- Protection from the elements. Just before heading outdoors, apply a heavy, oil-based balm or try unrefined shea butter in a thick layer on skin that will be exposed when heading outdoors.
These tips should help keep eczema at bay, but if you find your child suffering from eczema all year round, you’ll want to consider other possible triggers such as: food allergies or sensitivities, environmental and indoor allergies, and detergents and soaps.
Oil-Based Balms & Shea Butter
“Winter Skin Care Guidelines” American Dermatology Association’s EczemaNet. Retrieved on October 26, 2012 from: http://skincarephysicians.com/eczemanet/winterizing_tips.html
“Eczema Quick Fact Sheet” National Eczema Association. Retrieved on October 26, 2012 from: http://www.nationaleczema.org/living-with-eczema/eczema-quick-fact-sheet
Jennifer Roberge is a work-at-home mother of two children with eczema. She blogs about her family’s battles with these health conditions at Itchy Little World. Jennifer is the founder of The Eczema Company, which offers specialty clothing and natural, non-toxic skin care for eczema.