Eczema is really itchy and almost impossible not to scratch. Apart from the immediate damage caused by scratching, the scratching action can also turn into habit. To minimise the damage and stop this habit-forming, you will need to give your child some effective strategies for dealing with the very real eczema itch. From experience, being told to ‘stop scratching’ without being told how to stop scratching is incredibly frustrating; but learning how not to scratch is an important life skill for an eczema sufferer. Here are our top tips to help stop children from scratching eczema.
With eczema, prevention is better than cure
The most effective way to stop children scratching eczema is by minimising the itching with a good skin maintenance routine and avoiding known triggers. Keeping rooms cool, dressing itchy kids in loose cotton clothing and avoiding using harsh soaps and detergents on anything (and anyone) they come into contact with. When these measures haven’t worked, a cold compress (or an ice cube) can often be effective at stopping a localised itch – we keep a novelty gel-filled cold compress in the fridge for the purpose (which also comes in handy for bumps and bruises). Another method of avoiding scratching is to lightly tap or drum the itch with your fingers until it fades – the vibration created by the tapping interferes with the nerve signals responsible for the itch. On really itchy days (or nights), children’s Piriton can be helpful for some children, but it will make them drowsy.
Distraction tactics for scratchy kids
If the itch just won’t go away – distraction can be really effective, especially if it is really interesting or fun and involves both hands. Watch your child and work out if there is a time when they are more likely to scratch. This will often be when they are tired, slightly bored in the car, or pre-occupied watching the TV. Armed with this knowledge you should be able to come up with a strategy to help them. Fiddly toys like Lego, tangle toys and even a Rubik cube are great for keeping hands busy. We have found that Power Ranger action figures are great at keeping our son’s hands out of mischief while he watches the TV. On car journeys action songs can work well – and you don’t have to stick to the original words – when we sing ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ it has ducks (quack, quack, quack), crocodiles (snap, snap, snap) and all sorts of silly additions to keep the kids’ attention. We also have some great games on our mobile phones to keep scratchy fingers occupied when we are out and about.
Raise kid’s awareness of their scratching
A lot of kids scratch unconsciously. In these cases, sticker charts are a great way to help children become aware of when they are scratching. Start by telling them that they are scratching or gently moving the offending hand so that they realise that they are scratching. Then you could try a sticker chart with stickers awarded for not scratching at given times of the day. Start with relatively easy targets – even 5 minutes will be a real challenge for some kids – and gradually increase the time it takes to earn a sticker. The really great thing with sticker charts is that gives you a chance to reward your child for the major, but largely hidden, the achievement of stopping themselves from scratching. You could also come up with a secret signal to tell them when they are scratching without realising – it’s much more fun than being told to ‘stop scratching’!
If you have a toddler, check out this blog post on how to minimise their eczema scratching.
These methods have worked for us – what are your top tips?
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Here at ScratchSleeves, we don’t just share our experiences of bringing up an eczema child (and favourite allergy-friendly recipes), we also manufacture and sell our unique stay-on scratch mitts for itchy babies, toddlers and children. We now stock sizes from 0-8 years in a range of colours. Visit our main website for more information.