Long car journeys with babies and young children fill most parents with dread: the boredom, the kicking at the backs of the seats, the bickering, the mess when you arrive… We know from experience that the thought of a long car journey with an eczema child can be terrifying – all that time with nothing better to do than scratching! The vast majority of advice available suggests avoiding long car journeys with an eczema child – but there are times when that just isn’t an option. And for some parents even short car journeys are difficult. The ScratchSleeves team have put their heads together and come up with their top tips for comfortable car journeys with eczema children.
Why do eczema kids scratch themselves more in the car?
As with all things eczema, it depends: some kids get too hot making them itchier; some sensitive skins can be irritated by the upholstery shampoos, polishes or even air fresheners used to clean the car; some are allergic house dust mites living in their car seat; some are irritated by pollens and other environmental pollutants coming into the car; and some just get bored and make the most of the opportunity to have a good, satisfying scratch without parental intervention.
Stop the scratching: our top tips for car journeys with eczema kids
In our experience, the most common scratching triggers are getting too hot and boredom both of which can be minimised with a bit of planning on the day. If your itchy little one is allergic to things in the car a bit more organisation is needed.
- Moisturise before you leave – by applying a layer of emollient before you leave you can protect your child’s skin from the drying effect of the air-conditioning as well as providing protection from other environmental irritants
- Choose cool, comfortable clothing – Dress your child for the temperature inside the car rather than outside and remember that the back of the car is often a 2-3°C warmer than the front of the car. Aim to under-dress rather than over-dress and give your little one a light blanket that they can kick off if they are too hot. It’s much easier to add layers when you’re in transit! Regardless of what your child needs to wear at the end of the journey, stick to comfortable cotton clothing for the journey. Wedding finery, winter coats or Granny’s hand-knitted creation can be donned on arrival (read more about eczema-friendly clothing).
- Keep your car cool – most modern cars have good air-conditioning which can make travelling with eczema children so much easier than in the past. But AC only works when the car is actually running (and if the fluid is kept topped up). Getting into a hot car that has been parked in the sun can be truly horrible for an eczema child, and a bad start can make for an awful journey. If parking undercover or in shade isn’t possible, windscreen sunshades can make a huge difference. You could also try keeping your child’s car seat in the house rather than leaving it in the car. If possible, cool the car down before loading your children by opening the doors for 5-10 mins or running the car so the AC can get going.
- Plan your journey – driving when your little one would normally be asleep can make a car journey much easier, as can avoiding driving during the heat of the day. A scheduled break at a service station with an opportunity to cool down and get out of the car for a while can make the world of difference. With older kids you can turn the journey itself into an adventure with a planned detour, this book has loads of great ideas for places to visit within 5 minutes of the motorways.
- Keep hands (and heads) busy – keep a supply of toys and books ready. Babies in rear-facing seats often love having a mirror angled so they can see something of their parents, toys which can be attached to their seat are really useful too. And just because they can’t talk yet doesn’t mean that they may not want a chat! Tablet computers are a godsend for long car journeys – the Baby Einstein videos have saved the day for us a number of times. Now the kids are bigger we download their favourites from CBeebies before we leave. If you’re not happy letting your little actually hold the tablet themselves there are numerous headrest mounts available. For older children, we found that putting a seat back organiser in front of them drastically reduces the stress of lost items (and reduces the mess slightly). There are lots of other ideas for tried and tested travel games and in-car entertainment on the web – we’ve used the ideas and downloads from this site a number of times (but we use colours rather than letters for I-spy).
- Keep car-seats comfy –the wrap-around, protective design of children’s car seats can get very hot and sweaty. A sheepskin liner in baby and toddler seats reduces the sweatiness really effectively. The open nature of the fleece wicks away any dampness as the same time as allowing air to circulate. If the sheepskin irritates your baby’s skin you can cover the fleece with a muslin square. On really hot days, popping a cold pack down the side of your little one can help keep them cool. Sweaty car seats can also harbour house dust mites so look for a seat with a removable and washable cover (which are not as common as you might think). Our article on house dust mites has tips for removing them at low temperatures.
- Instant itch relief – if your little one is really struggling with an itch, instant cold packs can provide both itch relief and distraction (they are pleasingly squidgy once they have been activated). They can be tricky to activate but we find stamping on them works well, just don’t do it on gravel or you may pop the bag….
- Beware of car cleaning products – most commercial car cleaning products include all sorts of chemical nasties that are known to irritate sensitive skin including SLS, ammonia, alcohols and petroleum derivatives. While they are effective at getting your car clean they may be increasing your eczema child’s scratching – if you can, stick to vacuuming and chemical-free cleaning products and avoid air-fresheners.
- Be prepared – Cars do break down and traffic jams are a fact of life. Keep a supply of snacks, drinks, toys and moisturisers in the car with you. There is nothing more frustrating than being stuck in slow-moving traffic and knowing that you could solve a problem with something that is in the boot (aka trunk, for our readers across the pond)!
- If all else fails – if you can’t stop your child scratching at their eczema in the car, our ScratchSleeves are a really effective method of minimising the damage without restricting movement. ScratchSleeves work in two ways – not only does the cardigan design ensure that they stay firmly in place without any fiddly fastenings, but the unique silk-covered mitts isolate the scratching action to minimise the damage. The eczema friendly mitts themselves allow full movement so they won’t limit what your child can get up to – our kids have even figured out how to use the iPad while wearing them. ScratchSleeves are currently available in sizes from 0-12 years.
Do you have any top tips for travelling with eczema kids? You can share your experience on our Facebook page.