For children with eczema, the excitement of back-to-school can be overshadowed by worries about their skin condition, and parents and teachers will have their own concerns too.
It is important that children are comfortable at school and do not miss classes because of their eczema. Below is a list of tips to assist you in getting your child’s eczema under good control during the school year.
1) Educate your child about eczema
Ensure your child understands eczema and why treatments are necessary; explain things in age-appropriate terms. Familiarize your child with possible eczema triggers such as harsh soaps, perfume, air fresheners or scented candles, hot water, hot environment and sweat, wool clothes, etc. and take precautions to avoid them; teach the child how to manage the eczema symptoms. These will help them prevent and treat their symptoms when they are not with you.
2) Talk to school staff about your child’s eczema
If your child has eczema, it is important to liaise closely with the teachers. It is best if the child is seated away from the radiators and other sources of heat. Discuss with the teachers that during an eczema flare-up, the child will have a hard time sitting still or concentrating because they are so itchy. In some cases, this leads to irritability and other behaviour issues. Drowsiness in the classroom can also be a concern if the child can’t sleep at night because of the itching. Most likely, teachers may already know these things and have ways to help your child be comfortable at school because eczema is so common.
3) Get help with the skin care routines
Children with eczema require daytime moisturising. They should take their own special soap and moisturisers with them at school. If your child is old enough to properly apply their creams, let teachers know that the child will need time during classroom breaks to apply moisturisers and other topical treatments, and this must be supervised. If your child needs help with applying the creams, get a note to school staff with instructions on how to apply the moisturisers and other treatments.
4) Avoid activities that cause eczema flare-ups
Some activities may aggravate eczema. Children with eczema must avoid contact with hamsters, rabbits or other pets at school. Some art supplies, like paste, paint and clay, can also cause irritation and eczema flare-ups. Parents can work together with teachers to determine alternate activities, or offer to bring non-irritating art supplies to the classroom.
Overheating during sports and active play can increase itchiness, still, except for periods with severe flare-ups, open sores or skin infection, children with eczema should participate in their physical education classes.
5) Minimize scratching
Children with eczema have a constant urge to scratch. Teachers can help by offering quiet reminders not to scratch during class. Positive encouragement may help the child cope with itchiness, as well as suggesting activities that may prevent scratching. Parents should have their children try on all their clothing before school starts to make sure that tags or seams don’t further aggravate itching. If your child is required to wear a school uniform, ask if clothes made from cotton rather than polyester or nylon, are permitted. Loose-fitting cotton clothing should be worn as well during physical education classes. Special eczema clothing is available and can be worn under school uniforms and regular clothing. Also, consider letting your child wear eczema gloves at school to prevent scratching and to keep creams in place.
6) Deal with teasing and bullying
Because eczema’s red, scaly rash is noticeable, children with eczema may be self-conscious. They may not want to wear shorts and t-shirts because they are worried they might be teased. Unfortunately, some children are teased by others who don’t understand that eczema is not caused by poor hygiene and that it isn’t contagious. Teachers can address this issue by discussing tolerance and bullying in the classroom.
7) Prevent flares at school by taking good care of the child's skin at home.
Parents should make sure their child's skin is in control using regularly at home the moisturisers and the medicines prescribed by the child’s doctor.
8) Raise awareness
Useful school packs with information for children with eczema, their teachers and other pupils in the school can be downloaded from the website of the National Eczema Society (UK) – www.eczema.org/eczema-at-school
- “Coping with Eczema” by Prof. John Harper (Professor of Paediatric Dermatology)