With Eczema Awareness Week just around the corner (3-10 May) and cooler weather conditions exacerbating skin conditions for many people with skin sensitivities, eczema continues to be a significant issue for many Australian children – especially leading into winter.
Statistics suggest that one in three Aussie kids suffer from eczema and up to one million Australians have been affected by eczema at some point in their lives. Furthermore, the Australian government last month announced a $270 million subsidy for Australians over the age of 12 who suffer from severe eczema and have not responded favourably to topical creams and ointments.
For children aged 12-and-under who are not covered by the subsidy, there are a range of easy-to-follow skincare tips and routines that can potentially help to minimise the incidence and severity of eczema flare ups, says the Eczema Association Australasia Inc (EAA) in partnership with leading sensitive skin and hair care brand for children, Childs Farm.
President of the EAA, Cheryl Talent, says, “If your child suffers from eczema, you may see an increase in symptoms as we enter the cooler months, including intense itching, dry and cracked skin, and even infection. This makes it a good time to try something different for your child’s skincare routine. While there is not yet a cure for eczema, good management is achievable using prescribed treatments and suitable skincare products. It is now widely recognised that constant moisturising of the skin helps to maintain the skin barrier and promote healing.”
Winter flare ups
More than half of all eczema sufferers experience flare ups related to environmental and physical triggers, with change in weather being the biggest issue for most of them (72%). With winter fast approaching, cold and dry weather can sap skin of essential moisture and may cause serious issues for skin that is already compromised. Itching and inflammation can also lead to a breakdown in our body’s main line of defence, our protective skin barrier.
Tips for managing eczema as we move into cooler months
The EAA and Childs Farm, which is a proud Gold member of the Eczema Association Australasia (EAA), have jointly compiled a list of tips for protecting your child’s skin throughout the cooler months.
1. Moisturising is key
Liberally apply moisturiser to your child’s skin whilst it is damp (after a shower or bath) to help seal in the moisture from the water. Regular moisturising of the skin is absolutely essential to managing eczema.
Ask your Pharmacist for samples of different products so you can always carry moisturiser with you. If you haven’t tried them before, a patch test is always recommended before using any new products.
One of the EAA’s Gold partners, Childs Farm, is an option worth considering. Childs Farm uses naturally derived ingredients and essential oils to produce a range of mild, kind and delicious-smelling toiletries. The entire range is suitable for sensitive skin and suitable for skin that may be prone to eczema. It is also one of the very few baby and child ranges to undergo clinical safety tests and controlled user trials on children who suffer from medically diagnosed eczema.
2. Avoid over-washing your hands
Children’s hands can become dry, chapped and cracked during the cooler weather. Although we have been encouraging hand-washing during COVID, over-washing or scrubbing too hard can cause the skin to dry out and crack.
Find a soap-free hand wash for your kids to use and teach them to apply moisturiser liberally after washing their hands. If their hands do become dry, use moisturiser before bedtime and have them wear cotton or bamboo gloves while they are sleeping to help seal in the moisture.
3. Treat flare ups promptly
When you notice the first signs of your child having an eczema flare up, treat it accordingly. Use topical steroids and moisturisers to manage the itch and discomfort, and continue treating it until it has completely healed. Not treating eczema can lead to broken or cracked skin, which can result in infection.
4. Manage your indoor environment
While you don’t have control of the weather and temperatures outside, you can control the temperature in your home. Not overheating your home and avoiding drying out the air by using a humidifier can help reduce the chance of your child having a flare up.
5. Be mindful of your child’s bathing conditions
Make sure your child’s bath or shower water is warm, not hot, as hot water can dry out the skin and cause cracking. Limiting their shower/bath time to 5-10 minutes can help, however, we know the role that bath time plays in the development stages for children. If they are taking longer baths, use a soap-free cleanser or hypoallergenic bath oil that is less likely to irritate sensitive skin.
A suitable option for this is the Childs Farm Bubble Bath which is made from naturally derived ingredients and essential oils, and is dermatologically tested and approved, and paediatrician approved as suitable for newborns and upwards.
6. Know their triggers
Not all children have the same triggers for eczema. Pay attention to what in their environment might cause a flare-up. Some people find allergens, dry air, cold wind, scented products, dust mites or household cleaning chemicals cause their eczema to flare. By understanding your child’s triggers, you can take steps to prevent the flare-up.
7. Layer their clothing
During a transition from one season to another, weather can be unpredictable or rapidly change during the day. For example, it may be cold in the morning but warm by afternoon, or it may be nice in the morning and later be windy and cold. Instead of dressing your child only for the morning, put them in layers so they can add or take off a layer depending on the temperature throughout the day.
8. Use sun protection
Summer might be over but there are still dangerous UV rays that can cause a sunburn or irritate your child’s skin. Apply suitable sunscreen to their skin every morning before leaving the house.
9. Pay attention to allergens
Pollen is still in the air during the cooler months. In addition, allergens such as mould and mildew might be more prevalent, especially in damp weather. Take time to change filters on heating systems before starting them up to reduce the chance that turning on the heat will send allergens into the air in your house.
10. Make sure they drink plenty of water
As the weather cools, your child may not feel as thirsty but their body still needs water. Staying hydrated helps keep their skin moisturised.