Parenting a Child with Atopic Dermatitis
Taking care of a child with atopic dermatitis can be challenging. However, learning how to manage it benefits your child’s physical and mental health while giving you and your family better opportunities to cope.1-4
Atopic dermatitis has no cure, but it can be successfully treated.1-4
Atopic dermatitis is caused by an overactive immune system that results in skin that is prone to itchiness and infections.3,4 Once your child is diagnosed, it’s good to maintain open communication with your doctor, so you can plan how to deal with it together.1,3,4
Your doctor will develop a tailored treatment plan for your child. In most cases, this plan will include skin care, triggers and flare management, and medication applied to the skin.1,3-5 In some more severe cases, other drugs or types of therapy may be recommended.3-5
Be patient and persistent, rest assured you will eventually find your way.
It might take weeks or longer before your child feels any improvement, as what works for one child or adult might not work for yours.1 Follow your doctor’s guidance and you will eventually find what works best.1
You also need to be open to learning, as parents, especially of younger children, need to be educated about the condition.2-4 You will be primarily responsible for making sure that doctor’s orders are being followed.2 On top of that, your child will look to you to explain to them what is happening, how certain activities can either help or make their atopic dermatitis worse, and to give them emotional support when they feel under the weather.2,6
Being able to control your child’s condition helps in many ways.
Without treatment, atopic dermatitis can get worse.2 Effective management can prevent it from progressing.2 Aside from making your child more comfortable, minimizing flare-ups and preventing complications, treatment also helps your child’s mental state.2-4 When skin symptoms are under control, children can sleep better, concentrate on learning and leisure activities while feeling more confident in social situations, all of which can help avoid depression and anxiety.2,3,6
The basics of managing childhood atopic dermatitis at home:
- Cleanse and moisturize regularly1,4,5,7,8
Keep skin clean and moisturized.7 Schedule regular baths using lukewarm water and a mild cleanser.1,8 Ask your child to soak for about 5-10 minutes, but no more than 20 minutes, as prolonged soaking can make skin dryness worse.7,8 After bathing, pat dry but leave skin a bit damp, then apply moisturizer within 3 minutes.1,4,7 Ask your doctor’s advice on how often baths are needed and how to choose cleansers and moisturizers.4,5,7,8
- Apply moisturizers and skin medication properly.1,3,4
Moisturize often, especially when skin starts to itch or feel dry.1 While ointments are more effective moisturizers compared to lotions, 1,4 some products might be too greasy for hot climates, so keep this in mind.3
In mild cases, moisturizers may be enough to keep skin symptoms under control, but if needed, your doctor will prescribe topical medication.9 Make sure to get clear instructions from your doctor on how to properly apply these products, and how often to use them.3,4,9
- Manage flares calmly and confidently.
While you will do your best to help your child avoid triggers and flare-ups, you should be able to take care of itchy episodes when they happen. For immediate relief, you can try a cool compress to itchy skin, or give the child a bath, soak and moisturize.1,10You may use anti-itch over the counter medications, but only when your doctor recommends them.1,10
Distract your child by not mentioning the itch and playing a game or engaging them in an activity.10 Some children will start feeling stress once they feel a flare coming on, so try to calm them.10 You can also minimize skin damage by keeping nails short and covering itchy skin with loose-fitting cotton clothing.10
Have several itch relief strategies ready, as what works today might not work tomorrow.10 Stay calm and move onto the next technique, and when nothing works, contact your doctor.1,10
- Avoiding physical and mental complications.
Aside from skin damage caused by scratching, skin infections are a common problem for children with atopic dermatitis.1,3,4,11 This is because the skin is supposed to keep germs out, but atopic skin is damaged, making it less effective.11
To help prevent infections, keep the skin clean and moisturized.11 Dry and cracked skin lets more germs in.11 Avoid dipping your fingers into moisturizers or medication, instead use a pump applicator or a clean spoon. 11 Ask your doctor about bleach baths, which might be helpful, and don’t hesitate to contact them when you suspect an infection. 11
Depression, anxiety and stress are pretty common, not just for a child with atopic dermatitis, but the people taking care of them as well.3,4,6 It’s best if everyone in the family gets help, even professional help, when necessary.3,4,6
While childhood atopic dermatitis brings many problems, the rewards of successfully managing the condition are immeasurable. By getting good medical advice and keeping a positive outlook, you and your child will be able to look forward to a happy childhood, and a better future.
- National Eczema Association. “Eczema Treatment for Children”, https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/children/treatment/ (Accessed November 24, 2021).
- American Academy of Dermatology Association. “Will Treating Eczema Improve my Child’s Health?”, https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/eczema/childhood/treating/improve-health (Accessed November 24, 2021).
- Arkwright, P.D., Motala, C., Subramanian, H., et al. (2013). Management of difficult-to-treat atopic dermatitis. J Allergy Clin Immunol: In Practice, 1(2), 142-151. https://www.aaaai.org/Aaaai/media/MediaLibrary/PDF%20Documents/Practice%20and%20Parameters/Management-of-difficult-to-treat-AD-2013.pdf
- Raimer, S.S. (2000). Managing pediatric atopic dermatitis. Clin Pediatr (Phila), 39, 1-14. https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.855.9756&rep=rep1&type=pdf
- American Academy of Dermatology Association. “Eczema Types: Atopic Dermatitis Diagnosis and Treatment”, https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/eczema/types/atopic-dermatitis/atopic-dermatitis-treatment (Accessed November 24, 2021).
- American Academy of Dermatology Association. “How Can Eczema Affect My Child’s Mood?”, https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/eczema/childhood/health-concerns/mood (Accessed November 24, 2021).
- Paller, A. “Why are Baths and Moisturizer so Important when Treating Eczema?” American Academy of Dermatology Association. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/eczema/childhood/itch-relief/baths-moisturizer (Accessed November 24, 2021).
- American Academy of Dermatology Association. “How to Bathe a Child Who has Eczema”, https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/eczema/childhood/itch-relief/bathe-child (Accessed November 24, 2021).
- American Academy of Dermatology Association. “How to Use Moisturizer to Reduce Eczema Flares”, https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/eczema/childhood/itch-relief/moisturizer-use (Accessed November 24, 2021).
- American Academy of Dermatology Association. “Home Remedies: What can Relieve Itchy Eczema?”, https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/eczema/childhood/itch-relief/home-remedies (Accessed November 24, 2021).
Health information contained herein is provided for general educational purposes only. Your healthcare professional is the single best source of information regarding your health. Please consult your healthcare professional if you have any questions about your health or treatment.