Eczema is a group of conditions (e.g. atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis, etc.) that cause skin inflammation, leading to itchiness and a rash-like appearance.
Although there is no cure for eczema, it is possible to manage the condition, thus allowing children to live a relatively normal lifestyle. However, parents do need to take extra precautions in order to prevent flare-ups from happening.
Tips on minimising or preventing flare-ups:
- Use suitable toiletries
When showering, avoid harsh soaps and pat dry with a soft absorbent towel. Avoid excessive bathing as it can also dehydrate the skin.
- Not all fabrics are equal
Avoid certain ‘scratchy’ fabrics (e.g. wool, polyester) and remove any clothing tags as these are potential irritants.
- Be prepared before exercising
Sweating helps cool the body down, but it can dehydrate sensitive skin, thus possibly a flare-up. Wear loose clothing (100% cotton, no synthetics), and drink plenty of water before exercising. Another option is to use cooling towels to prevent overheating.
- Stay moisturised
Use eczema-friendly moisturiser before/after exercising, right after bathing (apply on wet skin), or as often as required. Prioritise this step as keeping the skin well-hydrated is very important.
- Do not smoke/vape
Second hand smoke/vape is a potential irritant. Other environmental factors that may trigger flare-ups include hot/cold weather, dampness, dust mites, pet dander, and mould. Avoid air-con settings that are too cold as this will lower air humidity and dehydrate the skin.
- Keep a food diary
If your child has food allergies, this will help you to trace the culprit in the event of flare-ups occurring.
Use eczema-friendly products
When buying or using products for kids with eczema, you should exercise extra care. Use only products that are known to be safe for use with eczema. This should include all products that will be coming into contact with your child’s skin including soap, shampoo, clothing, moisturisers, etc.
Some skincare products match healthy skin pH and this will help prevent skin irritation. A very important thing to remember is to select fragrance-free products, and not just unscented. The difference is that unscented may mean that it contains a masked fragrance, whereas fragrance-free does not contain any fragrance at all.
Here’s a quick run-down of skincare products to use:
- Emollient-rich moisturiser
Can be effective on its own or used with a corticosteroid cream. Moisturise liberally first, then apply the cream sparingly after the moisturiser has been absorbed.
- Avoid too much sun
When heading outdoors under strong sunlight, use mineral-based, fragrance-free sunscreen products.
- Moisturiser ingredients to look for:
A type of lipid (aka fat molecule) that helps skin retain moisture and allows it to function properly, thus restoring the skin’s protective barrier.
Can provide a cooling effect that can helps alleviate the itch from flare-ups.
- Pyrrolidone carboxylic acid (PCA)
One of the components of the natural moisturising factor of the skin, which aids in skin hydration.
- Petrolatum (or petroleum jelly, derived from petroleum)
A thick emollient that prevents water loss from your skin, thus helping to repair the skin barrier. During flare-ups, it can be applied directly after bathing or throughout the day.
Note: You may also need to avoid certain products such as baby powder, baby wipes, bubble bath, and stuffed/soft toys.
Pay extra attention
Parents need to be extra alert to these factors as they contribute to and may cause flare-ups. Only by being vigilant would you be able to prevent or minimise the chances of eczema flare-ups from happening.