All too often we are told that eczema is something a child will naturally grow out of but unfortunately, this is not always the case. Here we offer advice on talking to your child about their eczema and share our top tips for preparing children with eczema for school.
We’ve also got practical advice about coping with eczema in school from allergy blogger Lisa, whose daughter suffers from eczema and allergies.
Explaining eczema in a child-friendly way
Is your child starting school with eczema-prone skin? Starting school with eczema can be daunting for both child and parent alike.
Not only is there the worry that itchy school jumpers will irritate the skin, there’s also a risk that products used in the classroom and the stress of transitioning into a new school regime could trigger eczema flare-ups.
This is also an important time for helping your child to learn how to manage their eczema independently.
When they are just getting to grips with their ABCs, understanding and self-managing eczema is a big ask but there are lots of resources you can use to help explain it to your child and help guide their teachers.
Books like “Emmy’s Eczema” and the “Itchy-saurus” are a gentle first step to helping your child understand eczema. These brightly coloured books use dinosaur characters to demonstrate the importance of managing eczema and help deter children from scratching their sensitive skin.
The Eczema Society website offers a wealth of information on managing infant and childhood eczema. Here you can find downloadable checklists that provide guidance on talking to your child’s teacher about their eczema so that you can be sure they can confidentially monitor for skin reactions and, if necessary, react to your child’s skin concerns during school hours.
Their website also provides materials for children with eczema including a story book and easy eczema-management tips that you can practice at home.
Preparing eczema-prone children for school
Some children may also feel embarrassed by their eczema or anxious about explaining their skin condition to other children. To help you and your child feel prepared for the new term, we’ve put together our top tips for starting school with eczema.
TELL THEIR TEACHER:
Does your little one’s eczema hamper their ability to concentrate? If you are worried their skin care needs could interfere with their learning be sure to speak to their teacher about your concerns. Eczema is incredibly common in childhood and it is likely that the school with have tried and tested measures they can put in place to distract your child from their itchy skin so that they can concentrate on their school work.
If your child visits a childminder after school make sure they are as informed about your child’s eczema as their teacher is.
MUMMY LISA SAYS:
"I spoke to my daughter’s teacher before the school term started and explained her allergies. I also talked to the school about having to be careful with art materials such as paints and glues as they can dry her hands out."
PROTECT AT PLAYTIME:
Shielding eczema-prone skin from playtime sun exposure can be problematic but our Scent Free SPF30 Sun Lotion for children offers high-factor sun protection without aggravating eczema-prone skin.
Teach your child to apply it themselves so they can reapply during the school day where necessary.
According to the National Eczema Society, standard school seats can be problematic for those with eczema-prone skin. Predominantly made of plastic, these can be uncomfortable to sit on and irritate the skin. To avoid this, the National Eczema Society advises asking the school if it would be possible to place a thin cotton cushion on the seati.
SCHOOL UNIFORMS FOR ECZEMA:
Some school jumpers are made with coarse wool fibres that can feel itchy regardless of whether you have sensitive skin. Cotton clothes are much gentler on the skin so check your child’s school uniform guidelines carefully and where possible opt for school clothing made from high-quality cotton. Eczema can be aggravated by overheating so help your child to understand when they feel warm and how to take off their jumper or cardigan independently.
Sports kits can be equally troublesome for eczema-prone skin. Again, choose cotton fabrics over polyester polo shirts and if your child’s school offers swimming lessons, you may wish to take steps to protect them from chlorine.
To reduce the risk of chlorine drying out their skin, pack our water-repellent baby salve in their swim kit and ask their swim teacher to ensure this is applied to the skin before they can enter the pool*. Once they are home from school, wash the skin thoroughly to remove any excess chlorine from the skin and reapply the salve to any areas of the skin that have become dry or irritated.
BEAT THE BULLIES:
Concerned your little one will be teased because of their sore skin? Kids can be cruel, and if they are bullied because they have eczema it may be challenging to raise their self-esteem. To help prevent this, The National Eczema Society has worked with education experts to create a lesson plan that helps to teach children about compassion. This can be found at http://www.eczema.org/eczema-at-school-activities.
Your child may not tell you if they are being teased but stress can cause an eczema flare up so make sure you ask them about their day and help them to manage negative emotions. In the UK, state schools are required to have a behaviour policyii and if you do become concerned for your child’s emotional wellbeing, it is best to speak to the school as soon as possible so that they can put preventative bullying measures in place.
PACK TO PREVENT PROBLEMS:
If your child takes prescribed medication for their eczema, their school should be made aware of this as early as possible. They may have a process in place that requires them to have your permission before they can administer medication to your child so check you have signed any relevant permission slipsiii and always make sure the medication you leave with the school is in date and stored correctly.
SNACKS & SCHOOL DINNERS:
Are there any foods that trigger a flare-up of your child’s eczema? Packing a school lunch for your child will give you some control over what they are eating outside the home but be aware that your child may swap their snacks with their school friends.
To avoid any issues, speak to your child and the school’s catering team about their allergen triggers and make sure they know how to check food labels for the relevant allergens. If you child visits a childminder or friend’s home after school don’t forget to tell their guardian about their food allergies too!
My daughter has school dinners, so I contacted the school and together with the school meal provider we were able to put a plan in place to ensure she only eats food that is suitable for her eczema. She is served by the same lunch lady each day and her tray is a different colour to the other children. This makes it easy for them to know that they she has allergies. If food is to be served in the classroom her teacher always contacts me to consult on suitable options beforehand.
ESTABLISH A TERM-TIME BEDTIME ROUTINE:
Eczema can be incredibly itchy and if having uncomfortable skin disturbs your child’s sleep, they may find it difficult to concentrate in class the following day. To avoid this, establish an eczema-friendly term-time bedtime routine.
Ensure hair washing is done with an SLS-free shampoo and as bedtime approaches, apply Organic Babies Soothing Baby Salve to the skin. The calming ingredients in this gentle salve will work to relieve any night-time irritation whilst the lavender aroma helps calm restless sleepers.
Need eczema-friendly skin care for your child?
We hope that you have found our guide useful and that your child gets off to a brilliant start at school.
Green People’s natural and organic products are designed to be eczema-friendly and only contain ingredients that are kind to very sensitive skin. Browse the full range of Organic Babies and Organic Children products or find our must-haves here:
Do you already have children with eczema in school? We’d love it if you could share some tips for parents of children starting school with eczema. Join the conversation at @GreenPeopleUK or by commenting in the section below.