Winter is with us once again and while the children look forward to Christmas and snow, we parents need to prepare for those dreaded eczema flare-ups which are inevitable at this time of year. If your child is susceptible to seasonal eczema, or suffers year-round, you’ll know only too well that the condition can be aggravated by the cold weather and central heating. Layers of clothing plus hats, gloves and scarves which can irritate the skin present a new challenge – how to keep your child warm and dry while also keeping eczema at bay?
We’ve previously written about how to manage your baby or child’s eczema in winter and written specifically about caring for hands which can get horribly chapped when the weather is cold (and wet when playing in the snow). Since then, many parents have talked to us about preventing chapped lips. No only are chapped lips terribly painful, they can also cause eczema to spread from the mouth area to the chin and even the cheeks. Hopefully these tips and ideas which have worked with our children will help you prevent your child suffering from chapped eczema-prone lips this winter.
Preventing chapped lips
Use a lip balm: Prevention is always better than cure so protecting the skin from the cold and damp is perhaps the best way to keep chapped lips at bay. Vaseline smeared over lips and around the mouth works a treat as a barrier for the skin, but some children are put off by the taste. If, like our 5 year old, your little one makes out that lip balms taste disgusting, try making our honey and coconut oil balm. It takes only a few minutes and has a pleasant taste for children who are prone to licking their lips when any sort of cream is applied.
If you don’t have time to make your own, there are plenty of lip balms available from your local supermarket or pharmacy from major brands like Nivea and Vaseline to the more niche Burt’s Bees and Cowshed. As with all skin treatments for children with eczema, it’s best to try a little on your child in the beginning to make sure they don’t have an allergic reaction. A word of warning: while Carmex contains a local anaesthetic, which can help with very sore lips, it also contains menthol which makes them tingle and it’s not easy to remove lip balm from a distressed toddler…
Try to find an off-the-shelf product which is available in a tub rather than a stick or make sure the stick version is nicely pliable. Sticks can drag the skin on application especially when they are cold, which can open up partially healed cracked lips. Balm in a pot are typically softer and can be applied more gently with the tip of the finger.
Once you’ve found a brand that suits, stock up on supplies and put them in your coat pocket, changing bag, your child’s coat pocket, school bag, bedside table and leave another in the kitchen – having the balms ready to hand means you are more likely to apply before your little one’s lips get dry and cracked.
Keep moisturising: Make sure that you moisturise your child’s whole face both morning and evening. Regular eczema emollients are great for this, the greasier the better. Our kids aren’t keen on having a heavy emollient smeared over their faces but can usually be persuaded to paint on a moisturiser moustache and beard. Here are our favourites:
Check your toothpaste: Another good tip is to check that your child’s toothpaste is free of SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate), a chemical used to create the foaming action. SLS can dry the skin and is a known eczema trigger. Most supermarkets stock a small range of SLS-free toothpaste – Sensodyne is one of the most well-known brands with an SLS-free range. Less well known, but recommended by our dentist, is Oranurse which is both SLS free and unflavoured.
Stay hydrated: Finally, make sure your child remains hydrated – it’s so easy to get dehydrated in winter because you feel thirsty less often. Encourage your child to drink plenty of fresh water throughout the day – send them to school with a full water bottle so you can monitor how much they’ve had when they get home. We also make sure ours have a bottle or glass of water by their bed so that they have a few sips before sleep.
Sudden changes in temperature where you come in from the cold to a cosy, centrally heated home or classroom can also affect eczema-prone skin. When outside, encourage your child to protect their skin from the cold and wind with a scarf or snood. If they’re particularly sensitive, be careful of the materials which are worn next to the skin. A cotton-based scarf or snood is likely to be less aggravating than pure wool. Try to avoid synthetic materials as they don’t allow the skin to breathe. We’ve got a great article here on how to choose winter clothing for eczema skin.
When to get medical help
If you find you’re fighting a losing battle between chapped lips and eczema, it may be appropriate to use a steroid cream for a short time in order to bring the skin back under control. However, it’s best to check with your GP first as only very mild steroid creams are appropriate for use on the face. You can find more information on using steroid creams to control eczema here.
We hope that with a little forethought you are able to avoid chapped lips (and hands) this winter. If you have any hints or tips to share with us and other parents of eczema children please let us know or visit our Facebook page – we would love to hear from you.
Here at ScratchSleeves we don’t just share our experiences of bringing up an eczema child and favourite allergy friendly recipes, we also manufacturer and sell our unique stay-on scratch mitts and PJs for itchy babies, toddlers and children. We now stock sizes from 0-10 years in a range of colours. Visit www.ScratchSleeves.co.uk for more information.