Teaching Your Kids to Care for Their Eczema
Taking care of a toddler's eczema can be almost a full-time job. Whenever they have a flare up, you need to be there to make sure they don't scratch until they bleed. You need to be available to apply wet wrap therapy. You need to deal with everything from eliminating triggers in the house to applying medicated creams. Thankfully, kids grow up, and you will soon have a helpful partner to give you a hand: your child!
Children are like anyone else--they hate to feel helpless. As babies and toddlers, they really don't have any control over their own lives, and especially not their eczema. Once they get a little older, it can be a huge psychological boost for them to "take charge" and actually do things to help themselves. Yes, they will still need your help. But now they can assist you in many of the things that you've taken care of for years.
1) Trigger Avoidance
It has always been your job to monitor the house for triggers and make sure that your child doesn’t come in contact with one. As they get older, this becomes more difficult. They want to leave the house on their own, head over to a friend's place, or, horror of horrors, go to school! This makes it almost impossible for you to fully control their environment. You need to teach them exactly what triggers cause a flare up and how they can avoid them. At school, for example, it can be tempting to "trade" lunches or snacks with other kids. This is not an option for someone with eczema as they don't know if their new snack will contain a trigger. Your child needs to know what foods, environment, and activities to avoid when you aren't there.
2) Applying Medication
Sometimes, flare ups are unavoidable and things can be painful and itchy fast. If they are at home, no problem. You can be there with some kind of steroidal cream to help with the discomfort. But if they are at school or out at a friend's house, they will have to do it themselves. It is a great idea to begin to teach your child how to apply their medication and how much to use. Let them start to apply it themselves under your supervision. Again, this will give your child a feeling of control over their condition. The same goes for moisturizing. If you teach them how much they should use and how they should put it on, that knowledge will be carried with them.
3) Don’t Scratch
For a child, the itching can be a nightmare. We've all heard horror stories of children scratching in their sleep so hard that they wake up bleeding. You need to explain to your children why it is a terrible idea for them to scratch. Explain the reasons (that it will take longer to heal, that it will itch more if you irritate it, etc.) and then start to teach them strategies to deal with the itching without scratching.
4) Explain WHY
Let’s use wet wrap therapy as an example. Wet wrap therapy makes sense to us because we are adults. We take for granted that we instinctively understand concepts that children might not have a handle on. Take some time to explain to your child exactly what wet wrap therapy is and why it works. Go through the process slowly, explaining each step. Once you've done this a few times, ask them questions about it. "So why are we doing this?" Not only will this help them learn valuable information, it will also distract them as you go about applying moisturizers and putting them in their eczema rescue suit.
5) Explain the WHY of eczema
Kids can get crazy ideas about the world and their place in it. If they are around other children, and they have visible eczema, there is a chance they might be picked on for it. This can hurt their self-esteem. They might feel like there’s something wrong with them, or that they have done something to deserve this. You need to reassure your child that nothing is further from the truth. In simple terms, explains the “whys” of eczema to them. Tell them that even adults can get it. Show them photos online of other children with eczema so they don't feel alone. As they get older, you can explain in more detail. But it’s important for children to at least have a basic grasp on the facts of why they have eczema.
It can be hard to accept eczema as a part of your day-to-day life. We believe the best path to accepting something is doing something. If you teach your kids about eczema and all ways they can combat it by themselves, they can have an element of control over their condition. That can pay dividends down the line as they get older.