If you’re the mumma of a child with eczema then you know only too well the impact it can have on your little cherub’s life. Aside from the rigmarole of eczema treatment – applying creams and wet wraps, there are the rude stares and name calling.
As many as one in eight Australian kids suffer from eczema. That’s the same number of children who experience chronic asthma.
Treating baby eczema and managing eczema in children can certainly take its toll. However, unlike with asthma – where the social and emotional impact is more commonly recognised, experts are urging parents and the community to become ‘eczema aware’.
Cheryl Talent, President of the Eczema Association of Australasia (EAA), says, “Other childhood conditions such as asthma are widely understood but as well as the physical scars eczema leaves on kids, there are considerable emotional scars coming from harassment and bullying that we want to stop in its tracks. The condition is most prevalent in childhood, but one in twelve adults suffer from eczema as well, so we want people to know there is support out there.”
10-year-old Ryder Taylor, from Sydney’s northern beaches, has suffered from eczema all over his body since he was three months old. He often has to miss class to visit the school’s treatment clinic or hospital, change his clothes, get IV drips and try wet wraps, bleach baths and creams to soothe his flare-ups.
“I hate not knowing when I’m going to have an attack or where it will show or how it will feel,” says Ryder.
“It’s annoying and sometimes people look at you or ask questions, but I try to explain what it is, so they know for next time.”
Ryder’s mum Michelle says, “It’s heartbreaking to know that other kids use his eczema as a reason to bully him.
The words they say to him probably hurt more than his eczema does. He used to love being around people and he’s an incredible rugby player but lately, he’s becoming more isolated and that’s a worry for me as a mum.”
The EAA recommends parents visit their child’s school and talk to the teacher. By educating and informing people on the facts about eczema, we can help lessen the stigma.
Downloadable school packs, for the various school year levels, can be found on the EAA’s website.
The facts about eczema
Unfortunately, bullying can occur because people often don’t understand the condition. Whether is childhood eczema or baby eczema, key facts about eczema in children of all ages include:
- It is an inflammatory skin condition
- It usually appears in early childhood (between two to six months of age)
- It is non-infectious
- It is a common condition affecting one in three Aussies
- Eczema is more common in people with asthma or hay fever
- It causes a great deal of discomfort
- Most children grow out of the condition but for some, it can persist into adulthood
The symptoms of eczema
- Moderate-to-severely itching skin
- Rash – dry, red, patchy or cracked skin. Commonly it appears on the face, hands, neck, inner elbows, backs of the knees and ankles, but can appear on any part of the body.
- Skin weeping with watery fluid
- Rough, “leathery,” thick skin
Treating eczema in children
“One of the problems parents of kids with eczema face on a daily basis is the influx of information and what is relevant to them, plus how much is correct,” says Cheryl.
“We try to simplify things; if you can get onto the right skin regime you can achieve magnificent results. However, it’s very personal; everyone’s skin is different and so is their eczema.
“This time of the year is very difficult for many eczema sufferers with the onset of winter and the drier air, which can dry out skin even more. We often advise people to use the change in season as a cue to review their skin care products. Instead of using a soap-free wash, it may be beneficial to change to a bath & shower oil to moisturise while bathing. And significantly upping the use of moisturiser may also assist.
If you usually moisturise twice a day, try to make it four times a day. It can also be helpful to switch from a lotion to a cream or from a cream to an ointment for longer-lasting moisturisation.”
Cheryl’s tip for treating eczema: “Put together a ‘wet pack’ for your child to take to school which includes their own cleanser, moisturiser, cotton face washer and whatever they need through the day to help them cope. Ask a teacher aide if possible for younger children to help them have a wash down and re-moisturise at lunchtime. This can make all the difference to their afternoon and hopefully prevents them from having a scratching frenzy. After all, a whole day at school in a dusty dry environment is hard on the skin.”
Understanding the different types of moisturisers
- Lotion—lightweight and non-greasy. Good for use on hands. Apply after every hand wash to keep skin moisturised.
- Cream—long-lasting and can be more comforting to the skin than a lotion. Store in the fridge to create a soothing compress.
- Ointment—very long lasting, making it ideal for use overnight.
Cheryl’s tip: “Most health professionals advise to apply steroid cream first, wait 5-10 minutes, then apply moisturiser. However, for many sufferers who use a steroid cream (which can have a slightly drying base) applying the moisturiser first can be better. Also, if you are using a steroid ointment on your child, it is easier to apply moisturiser beforehand.
Do you have a child with eczema? Eczema treatment can be difficult and eczema in children can cause distress for both the child and the parents. Has your child suffered from name calling and childhood bullying because of eczema? If you’ve tried several treatments to no avail, check out these 10 simple ways to treat eczema in children.